January 4, 2024

Keep Your Credit Healthy by Knowing Which Credit Card to Pay Off First

Credit card debt is daunting. Each line of credit demands a slice of your hard-earned money, leaving you with multiple monthly statements and often wondering what debt to pay off first.

It’s a common scenario, but there’s an effective strategy for managing your debt. Knowing which credit card to pay off first can be a game-changer in your journey to financial freedom and a better credit score.

We’ll explore the best ways to pay off credit cards to build credit, explain credit utilization ratios, and provide a step-by-step approach to strategically paying off your debt.

Why is credit card debt so bad?

Credit card debt can become a silent financial storm, quietly brewing until it wreaks havoc on your financial health and peace of mind. The primary culprit behind this devastation is the interest rate. Every unpaid balance on your credit card presents a significant disadvantage due to interest. When rates are high, debt can quickly spiral out of control.

If you only make the minimum monthly payment on your card, interest accumulates, inflating the original debt and negatively impacting your credit score. A high credit card balance relative to your credit limit can lead to a lower score, affecting your ability to secure loans or even leading to higher interest rates on future credit.

What is a credit utilization ratio?

“Credit utilization ratio” is a term you’ll often hear in the world of credit. It’s the percentage of your available credit that you’re currently using. For instance, if you have a credit card with a $10,000 limit and owe $2,000, your credit utilization ratio is 20%.

This ratio is a critical component in the calculation of your credit score. A lower credit utilization ratio signals to lenders that you’re not overly reliant on your credit, which paints a picture of financial responsibility. On the other hand, a high ratio can be a red flag, indicating potential financial strain or overspending.

How to know which credit card to pay off first

Eliminating credit card debt requires a careful strategy. Is it better to pay off one credit card or reduce the balances on two? Should you dip into savings to pay off debt faster? The answers depend on your personal circumstances, but there are general rules.

Here’s a tried and true approach to help you decide which credit card to target first:

- List all your debts. Catalog all your credit card debts, noting their balances, interest rates, and minimum payments.

- Evaluate interest rates. Take a close look at the interest rates. Cards with higher APRs cost you more monthly and should take priority.

- Consider the credit utilization ratios. Assess each balance relative to its credit limit. Paying down cards closer to their credit limit first can help boost your credit score.

- Snowball method versus avalanche method. Consider the debt snowball method, focusing on the smallest balances to gain momentum. Alternatively, the avalanche method targets debts with the highest interest rates, leading to savings on interest payments.

- Weigh balance transfer options. Consolidate debt with a new balance transfer card, which can offer a lower interest rate, making repayment more manageable.

- Create a repayment plan. Based on what’s listed above, decide which card to pay off first — the smallest balance or the highest interest rate — and come up with a structured repayment plan. Allocate any extra funds to this card while making minimum payments on others.

6 strategies to pay off credit card debt

There are many ways to tackle credit card debt. The one that’s right for you depends on your individual circumstances.

Before you dive into specific strategies, consider seeking advice from a professional credit counselor. Credit counseling agencies offer free or low-cost services to help people effectively manage their credit card debt and avoid bankruptcy. A credit counselor provides personalized advice, creates a tailored debt management plan, and can even negotiate with creditors on your behalf to lower interest rates or waive fees.

Here are some of the best ways to pay off credit card debt:

1. Reduce spending

The first step to tackling credit card debt is an obvious one — curb overspending. Create a budget, track your expenses, and identify areas to cut back. Redirect savings toward paying off your debt. Balancing your income and spending helps you avoid accumulating more debt.

2. Use a balance transfer

Consider transferring your credit card balances to a card with a lower interest rate. A balance transfer consolidates your debts, potentially reducing the interest rate and making repayments more manageable. Be mindful of the terms and any interest rate changes after the introductory period.

3. Negotiate a rate reduction

Talk with your credit card issuer about a reduced interest rate, or even consider leveraging home equity to reduce your rate. A lower APR offers significant savings and speeds up debt payoff. A loyal customer with a history of timely payments has more room for negotiation.

4. Try the avalanche method

Target the credit card with the highest interest rate first, allocating extra funds to this debt while making minimum payments on others. The avalanche method can save money on interest in the long run.

5. Focus on the highest balance

A low credit utilization ratio is crucial to maintaining and improving your credit health. Paying off the card with the highest balance will reduce your ratio, which can positively impact your credit score and reduce the risk of bankruptcy.

6. Debt consolidation loan

Debt consolidation loans are personal loans that often have lower interest rates. A debt consolidation loan can combine multiple credit card debts into one manageable monthly payment, allowing you to focus on a single debt with a fixed interest rate and a set repayment schedule.

Next steps: What to do after paying off credit card debt

Achieving a zero balance on your credit cards is a monumental step, but the journey doesn’t end there. You’ll need continuous effort and discipline to stay debt-free.

Here are some steps to make sure you don’t fall back into the trap of credit card debt:

Build an emergency fund

An emergency fund is a financial buffer preventing you from needing credit cards to cover unexpected expenses. Start small and gradually build a fund covering three to six months’ living expenses.

Monitor your credit

Regularly review your credit report to track your credit status. You’ll quickly detect any discrepancies or fraudulent activities.

Adopt healthy spending habits

Avoid impulsive spending and live within your means. Create a realistic budget, stick to it, and make informed financial decisions. Financial education and budgeting are your friends in staying debt-free.

Avoid debt with EarnIn

Among countless digital finance tools, EarnIn stands out with innovative solutions that foster healthy credit and financial flexibility.

The EarnIn app offers powerful tools that give you a new set of options with your money. Our Cash Out tool lets you access your pay as you work — up to $100 a day and up to $750 every pay period — so you have what you need to keep moving forward, whatever life sends your way.

And our free Credit Monitoring tool helps you to keep a close eye on your credit score at any time for free. It’s not just about debt relief today; it’s about fostering a lifestyle of financial discipline, awareness, and flexibility into tomorrow. Finally, our credit card payoff calculator helps you create a personalized plan to become debt-free faster.

Download the EarnIn app today and experience money at the speed of you.

Please note, the material collected in this post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as or construed as advice regarding any specific circumstances. Nor is it an endorsement of any organization or services.

You may enjoy

Credit Card Debt Consolidation: 7 Ways to Deal With Debt
Credit Card Debt Consolidation: 7 Ways to Deal With Debt
Explore credit card debt consolidation strategies to pay off multiple balances. Learn their benefits and how to enhance your financial journey with EarnIn.
Credit Card Debt Forgiveness: Tips to Find Relief
Credit Card Debt Forgiveness: Tips to Find Relief
If you’re struggling to pay down cards, credit card debt forgiveness and debt consolidation are great options. But it’s important to know the difference.
How Do Credit Card Balance Transfers Work?
How Do Credit Card Balance Transfers Work?
How do credit card balance transfers work? Learn their benefits and how they compare to other financial tools for optimal debt management.
How to Save Money When You Live Paycheck to Paycheck
How to Save Money When You Live Paycheck to Paycheck
Use these eight smart tips to learn how to save money when living paycheck to paycheck. Take control of your finances, and achieve your financial goals.
Financial Precision: How To Calculate Credit Card Interest
Financial Precision: How To Calculate Credit Card Interest
With the help of our guide, learn how to calculate credit card interest, manage your credit cards, and avoid accumulating credit card debt.
Road To a Debt-Free Life: 9 Effective Debt Reduction Strategies
Road To a Debt-Free Life: 9 Effective Debt Reduction Strategies
These 9 effective debt reduction strategies will help you reach your goal of becoming debt-free.
5 Things to Do if You Have a Negative Credit Card Balance
5 Things to Do if You Have a Negative Credit Card Balance
A negative credit card balance means your credit issuer owes you money, which is not to be confused with having a negative bank account.
Quantity Versus Quality: How Many Credit Cards Is Too Many?
Quantity Versus Quality: How Many Credit Cards Is Too Many?
Wondering how many credit cards is too many? Discover the balance between credit card quantity and quality to manage your finances wisely.
Credit Card Grace Periods: Everything You Need to Know
Credit Card Grace Periods: Everything You Need to Know
Pay off your outstanding balance within a credit card grace period and make purchases without accruing interest.
How to Fix and Repair Your Credit: A Detailed Guide
How to Fix and Repair Your Credit: A Detailed Guide
Fixing or repairing your credit can give you more financial freedom and better rates. Here's a step-by-step process to improve your credit score.
8 Tips For Paying Off Student Loans Quickly
8 Tips For Paying Off Student Loans Quickly
If you’re exploring how to pay off student loans as quickly as possible, tips include claiming tax deductions, refinancing, and loan forgiveness.
How to Create a Zero-Based Budget One Dollar at a Time
How to Create a Zero-Based Budget One Dollar at a Time
Master the art of zero-based budgeting with this comprehensive guide, empowering you to manage every dollar with purpose and achieve financial freedom.
Activehours, Inc. NMLS #2535570
EarnIn US1 LLC NMLS #2567882

EarnIn is a financial technology company, not a bank. Bank products are issued by Evolve Bank & Trust, Member FDIC. The EarnIn Card is issued pursuant to a license from Visa USA Inc.

Download on the App Store
4.7 +189K ratings
Download on Google Play
4.6 +200K ratings