How to Check Your Credit Card Balance

How to Check Your Credit Card Balance: A Step-By-Step Guide

It’s easy to swipe a credit card and lose track of exactly how much you’re spending. That’s why it’s critical to check your credit card balance on a regular basis. By checking your credit card balance, you’ll know how much you owe so you can make payments or adjust your spending accordingly.

As for how to check a credit card balance, you can do so online, over the phone, or on the monthly statement that comes in the mail. Keep reading to learn more about how to check a balance on a credit card and why your credit card balance matters.

What Is a Credit Card Balance?

There are two different types of balances consumers will come across when it comes to their credit cards: current balances and statement balances.

The statement balance is the total balance owed at the end of the billing cycle. If someone wants to avoid paying interest, they need to pay off their statement balance in full each month. The current balance, on the other hand, is the total amount owed plus any fees, charges, credits, and payments that have been added to the account since the billing cycle ended. Given how credit cards work, it’s not necessary to pay the entire current balance to avoid interest charges.

In addition to their current balance and statement balance, each month the cardholder will also be told what their credit card minimum payment is. This is the lowest amount of their balance that they can pay in order to remain in good standing with their credit card issuer. They’ll need to pay interest on the remaining unpaid balance.

Recommended: Charge Cards Advantages and Disadvantages

Why Is It Important to Know Your Balance?

A credit card balance represents the total amount owed to the credit card issuer. If the cardholder wants to avoid paying interest on their remaining balance, they’ll need to pay off their credit card balance in full each month. So, for budgeting purposes, it’s helpful to know what that balance is.

A credit card balance also can indicate how high or low someone’s credit utilization ratio is. This ratio compares how much credit someone is using to how much credit they have available based on their credit card limits. It’s generally advised to keep your credit utilization ratio under 30% — but the lower, the better. Paying off a credit card balance in full each month can also help keep credit utilization low.

Additionally, checking your credit card balance each month can allow you to spot any unusual or potentially fraudulent charges on your credit card. If anything is amiss, you could then quickly contact your issuer and dispute the credit card charge. This could result in a credit card chargeback, allowing you to get the money back.

Reviewing a credit card statement can also help consumers identify where to cut back their spending so they can save more or afford to pay down more credit card debt.

How to Check a Credit Card Balance

Even if you’re confident you can pay off your balance in full each month, it’s smart to stay on top of your credit card balance for the reasons mentioned above. Read on to learn how to check the balance on your credit card.

Log In to the Mobile App or Go Online

Thanks to mobile banking and credit card apps, it only takes a few seconds to check a credit card balance from a smartphone. These mobile apps are helpful for checking a credit card balance on the go. It’s also possible for consumers to check their credit card balances by logging onto their online accounts from a computer, smartphone, or tablet.

Call the Card Issuer

It’s also possible to call the credit card issuer directly to confirm what your current credit card balance is. The phone number to call is printed on the credit card and also listed on the credit card issuer’s website. Keep in mind your issuer may provide different numbers to call depending on your reason for calling.

Send a Text to Your Bank

Don’t love making phone calls? Some banks and credit card issuers also allow account holders to text them to check their account balance, which is a speedy and convenient way to get an update.

Check Paper Statements

Each month, the account holder will receive a paper credit card statement through the mail or over email. The Account Summary section of the statement will outline what the statement balance on the credit card as well as the following details, which are given what a credit card is:

•   Payments and credits

•   New purchases

•   Balance transfers

•   Cash advances

•   Past due amount

•   Fees charged

•   Interest charged

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

The Takeaway

As you can see, making a point to regularly check your credit card balance is smart for a number of reasons. In addition to helping you stay on top of your spending and how much you owe, it can also help you to monitor your credit utilization and check charges for any fraudulent activity. Checking your credit card balance is easy to do online, over the phone, via text, or on your credit card statement.

Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.

FAQ

Can you transfer a balance to a new credit card?

It’s possible to transfer a balance from one credit card to a new one by using a balance transfer credit card. Typically, balance transfer cards come with a low or 0% introductory APR, which makes it possible to pay down debt without spending too much on interest for a temporary period of time. Keep in mind that balance transfer fees will typically apply.

What is a credit card balance refund?

When someone pays off their credit card balance before getting a refund for a purchase they made, that results in what is known as a negative credit card balance. To get that money back, you can either request a refund or wait for the funds to get applied to future credit card balance.

What happens if I overpay my credit card balance?

If someone overpays their credit card balance for whatever reason, they can either have that balance applied to a future purchase or they can request a credit card balance refund.

What does a negative balance on a credit card mean?

Having a negative credit card balance means that someone has a credit card balance that is below $0. For example, if someone pays off their credit card balance and then requests a refund from a merchant for $250, they would end up with a negative balance of $250. The credit card issuer would then owe that money to the account holder.

What happens if you cancel a credit card with a negative balance?

If someone chooses to close a credit card that has a negative balance, they need to request a refund before they close their account as they won’t be able to apply that negative balance to a future bill. Some credit card issuers will issue this refund automatically, but it’s best to confirm the refund is happening before closing an account.


Photo credit: iStock/milan2099

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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How to Spot and Avoid Credit Card Skimmers

How to Identify a Credit Card Skimmer and Protect Yourself

Unfortunately, credit card fraud is all too common, accounting for 393,207 of the nearly 1.4 million reports of identity theft in 2020. There are many different ways for identity theft to occur. One hazard to look out for is the credit card skimmers that are most commonly lurking at ATMs or gas station pumps.

To help protect yourself against theft, keep reading to learn what credit card skimmers are, how to spot a credit card skimmer, and what to do if your credit card is skimmed.

What Is a Credit Card Skimmer?

Credit card skimming is a form of theft that occurs when someone installs a small electronic device, known as a credit card skimmer, into a card reader. This device can read and collect information from a credit card when someone makes a purchase. The skimmer does this by reading the magnetic strip on a debit or credit card, which provides the full name on the credit card as well as the credit card number and credit card expiration date.

Credit card skimmers have been around since 2015. They are most commonly attached to gas station pumps, ATMs, and other types of machines that accept payments from both secured and unsecured credit cards as well as debit cards.

Identifying Credit Card Skimmers

Knowing how to check for credit card skimmers is a great way to protect against potential theft. Especially when using an outdoor payment machine like a gas pump or ATM, take a look at the card reader for signs of a credit card skimmer. See if the card reader is sticking out at an angle or looks any different from other nearby card readers. Also check if the card reader is loose or the keypad is unusually bulky.

When skimmers first came into play, it was easier to spot a credit card skimmer as the card reader often appeared to be tampered with or wiggled when used. Today, skimmers can fit snugly over the scanner, which makes it much harder to tell if something is amiss.

In the instance that all seems well with the card scanner at a gas station, double check the pump. If a gas pump is open, unlocked, has had the tamper-evident security tape altered or removed, or anything else seems amiss, it’s a good idea to use a different pump.

If possible, it’s best to use a credit card pump that has an encrypted credit card reader. Ideally, use one that has an illuminated green lock symbol near the credit card reader — this symbolizes that it’s been encrypted.

What Happens When a Credit Card Is Skimmed

When a credit card skimmer reads a magnetic strip on the back of a credit or debit card, it can obtain the cardholder’s full name, credit card number, and the credit card expiration date. Sometimes, scammers add a small camera into the equation in order to watch someone enter their PIN number when using a debit card. Really, one of the few things that’s safe is the CVV number on a credit card, which is why it’s so important to keep this secure.

Once the thief has this information in hand, they can use the card anywhere that accept credit card payments. They may have access to the cardholder’s bank account and could steal their identity. Or, the thief can sell the information on the dark web.

Recommended: 10 Common Credit Card Scams and How to Avoid Them

Protecting Yourself From Credit Card Skimmers

If you’re old enough to get a credit card, it’s critical to know how to use it responsibly and safely. Here’s a few tips to keep in mind to avoid falling prey to credit card skimmers.

Use NFC or Supervised ATMs

To help avoid coming into contact with a card skimmer, try to use payment terminals that are supervised by security cameras or skip using the card reader altogether and make a Near Field Communication(NFC) payment. NFC payments are secure transactions made with a smartphone, allowing you to avoid swiping your card at all.

Check and Recheck the Keypad

When it comes to how to spot a credit card skimmer, remember to check the keypad for any signs of tampering. These days it’s a bit harder to identify when a keypad has a skimmer on it, but if anything seems amiss, use another payment machine or go inside the gas station or bank to make a transaction or withdrawal.

Don’t Leave Your Card Unattended

Whenever possible, make a transaction or withdrawal inside of a gas station or bank. The odds of a criminal accessing inside payment terminals with a clerk watching are much lower compared to outside payment terminals. It only takes criminals a few seconds to add a skimmer to an outside payment terminal where no one is watching.

Just like taking the time to compare the APRs on credit cards, spending a few extra minutes going inside to buy gas or take out cash can pay off. It could help you avoid countless hours of dealing with identity theft as a result of credit card skimming.

Use Credit Cards With a Chip

If you’re familiar with what a credit card is, you’ll know that most new credit cards come with a “chip” that allows consumers to make payments without actually swiping their credit card. With an EMV chip, it’s possible to simply tap a credit card instead of swiping it to make a payment, which helps avoid credit card skimming.

Be Vigilant

If someone does need to use an outdoor ATM or gas pump, use one that is close to the building and preferably in the line of sight of an attendant, security guard, or security cameras. The more hidden a payment terminal is, the more likely it is that there is a credit skimmer placed on it. Also make sure to be aware of your surroundings when using any exterior payment terminals.

Sign Up for Credit and Debt Alerts

One way to catch fraud is to sign up for alerts that send a notification any time a purchase is made with the card. After all, it’s unlikely a fraudster’s activity will result in a negative balance on a credit card.

By receiving an alert right when a purchase is made, you can confirm whether or not you made it. If you believe an unauthorized purchase was made, contact your bank or credit card issuer immediately.

Check Your Account Regularly

To be extra vigilant, double check debit and credit card statements frequently to make sure that no unauthorized charges slipped through the cracks. It can be easier to stay on top of charges if you check in throughout the month rather than waiting until you receive your credit card statement and being shocked that you’re almost at your credit card limit due to unauthorized spending.

Can You Get a Refund if Your Card Gets Skimmed?

If you realize your credit card or debit card has been skimmed, check in with your bank or credit card issuer about next steps. You should also put a freeze on your credit report to ensure that the fraudsters aren’t applying for new credit cards in your name. In some cases, you may need to file a police report.

The credit card issuer or bank will have fraud protections in place and should refund you for any money lost. These protections are an important part of how credit cards work. Still, the sooner you cancel the cards and stop the fraud, the better. Most top credit cards have zero-liability policies that will refund the full amount of the fraudulent charges. If they don’t, the maximum liability anyone has as a consumer is $50.

The Takeaway

Skimmers are unfortunately all too common. With a debit card, consumers aren’t entitled to as much protection regarding theft, so it’s helpful to use a credit card whenever making purchases at an outdoor payment terminal that’s vulnerable to skimmers. Still, it’s important to know how to spot credit card skimmers so you can hopefully avoid them.

It can also help to have a credit card with security measures in place and a zero-liability policy. The SoFi Credit Card, for instance, offers cell phone protection as well as Mastercard theft protection, which can help detect potential fraud.

The SoFi Credit Card offers unlimited 2% cash back on all eligible purchases. There are no spending categories or reward caps to worry about.1



Take advantage of this offer by applying for a SoFi credit card today.

FAQ

What does a credit card skimmer do?

Credit card skimmers illegally collect information from credit and debit cards. Skimmers are typically attached to outside payment terminals like ATMs or gas stations.

Are card skimmers illegal?

Yes, credit card skimmers are illegal. This is why credit card issuers are creating new technology like chips to help make purchases more secure.

How common is credit card skimming?

Unfortunately, credit card skimming is all too common. Out of the nearly 1.4 million reports of identity theft in 2020, 393,207 cases were due to credit card fraud.


Photo credit: iStock/greyj

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

The SoFi Credit Card is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A. pursuant to license by Mastercard® International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.

SoFi cardholders earn 2% unlimited cash back rewards when redeemed to save, invest, a statement credit, or pay down eligible SoFi debt.

1Members earn 2 rewards points for every dollar spent on purchases. No rewards points will be earned with respect to reversed transactions, returned purchases, or other similar transactions. When you elect to redeem rewards points into your SoFi Checking or Savings account, SoFi Money® account, SoFi Active Invest account, SoFi Credit Card account, or SoFi Personal, Private Student, or Student Loan Refinance, your rewards points will redeem at a rate of 1 cent per every point. For more details please visit the Rewards page. Brokerage and Active investing products offered through SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA/SIPC. SoFi Securities LLC is an affiliate of SoFi Bank, N.A.

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How a Personal Loan Can Boost Your Credit Score

Will a Personal Loan Build Credit?

One of the factors lenders look at during loan processing is the applicant’s credit score. It’s a good idea to review your own credit reports before applying for a loan to see if there are any errors that can be corrected and possibly increase your credit score, if needed.

If your credit score is not as high as you’d like it to be, it may seem counterintuitive to consider taking on debt to increase it, but it’s a method that has some merit. Making timely payments on a personal loan may have a positive effect on a person’s credit score. Let’s take a look at what factors go into calculating a credit score and how taking out a personal loan can affect it.

Does a Personal Loan Help to Build Credit?

If a borrower makes on-time, regular payments on a personal loan — or any loan, for that matter — that information will typically be reflected on their credit history and can be one way to build credit. It’s a good idea to ask the lender if they report payment history to the three major credit bureaus, Experian®, Equifax®, and TransUnion®. If the lender doesn’t report the information, it won’t affect the borrower’s credit positively or negatively.

Recommended: How to Build Credit Over Time

When Does a Personal Loan Help You Build Credit?

Someone who doesn’t have much of credit history or wants to improve their credit score because they understand the importance of good credit might wonder “Will a personal loan build credit?” It certainly can be one method to do so, but only if handled responsibly. A personal loan to build credit can be an effective tool if the payments are made regularly and on time.

The terms “credit” and “credit score,” while closely related, are not the same. Generally, when the term “credit” is used, it’s referring to a credit report, which is a summary of a person’s financial history. The information contained in a credit report is what affects your credit score. So, while the two are different, they’re used together in lending and other credit matters.

To see where improvement can be made in how you handle your finances, you can review your credit report for individual elements that figure into the calculation of your credit score. Credit score updates can happen every 30 to 45 days, depending on when lenders report payment information to the credit bureaus, and small fluctuations are normal.

Your Payment History

The way you handle debt is the most important factor in determining your credit score. It accounts for 35% of a person’s FICO® Score. How you’ve repaid — or not repaid — debt in the past is considered a good indicator of how likely you are to repay future debt and is something lenders look at closely.

Missing payments or making late payments on a personal loan might hurt your credit score.

Your Credit Utilization Ratio

Second only to payment history, having a large debt-to-credit ratio, also called your credit utilization ratio, can be a damaging factor to your credit score. It accounts for 30% of the total FICO Score and takes into account both revolving (e.g., credit cards) and installment debt (e.g., personal loans).

This ratio is calculated by dividing how much do you currently owe by the total credit available to you. Credit cards offer a good example: if you have a monthly limit of $10,000, and typically carry a balance of $9,000 on your card each billing period, your utilization ratio would be 90%.

The Age of Your Credit History

Since the age of your credit history is a factor in your credit score, the ideal situation is to start building credit early. That’s not always feasible, though. If you don’t have much of a credit history yet, a personal loan to build credit can be useful.

As long as the loan’s payment history is positive, the longer a loan is listed on your credit report, the more likely it is to have a positive effect on your credit score.

Adding Different Types of Credit

An additional factor that can impact your credit score is the mix of different types of credit you might have, such as credit cards, student loans, and mortgage loans. In general, your credit score will benefit from a healthy mix of different kinds of debt on your credit report.

Having both revolving debt, like credit cards or lines of credit, as well as installment debt, such as a personal loan, can have a positive effect on your credit score if you’re making regular, on-time payments on the debts.

If you currently only have credit cards, adding a personal loan to your credit mix can go a long way in establishing multiple types of credit and potentially boosting your credit score.

Recommended: Personal Lines of Credit vs Credit Cards

When Doesn’t a Personal Loan Help You Build Credit?

We’ve covered some of the ways a personal loan can help build credit, but there are situations in which a personal loan might have a negative effect on your credit.

Late Payments

Making late payments on any type of debt, including a personal loan intended to build credit, will likely have the opposite effect. Lenders place a great deal of importance on a person’s payment history. If a lender sees a lot of late payments or missed payments on your credit report, they are probably more likely to see you as a credit risk.

Short Term Loan

Short-term loans can be predatory loans. They are meant to help someone make ends meet until their next paycheck, but it can be next to impossible to actually pay off because of the extraordinarily high-interest rates typically charged on them.

Lenders of these types of loans may not report payments to the credit bureaus, essentially negating any effect your responsible repayment might have. If you’re thinking of taking on debt to boost your credit score, a short-term loan is probably not the best option.

The Takeaway

Personal loans have many direct benefits – access to cash, predictable payments, consolidating high-interest debts – but their secondary impact on your credit score can be meaningful for your borrowing future. Making your personal loan payments on time may help you improve your credit score and your future borrowing options.

SoFi Personal Loans are unsecured loans that offer competitive, fixed rates and no-fee options. With a variety of terms to fit different budgets, there may be an option that works for your unique financial situation.

Check your rate on a personal loan from SoFi

FAQ

Do personal loans raise credit scores?

If repaid on time with regular payments, a personal loan is one financial tool that might have a positive effect on a person’s credit score. There are a variety of factors that go into the calculation of a credit score, though, and it’s wise to pay attention to all of them.

How long does it take to build credit with a personal loan?

Building credit means building a history, which doesn’t happen overnight. It might take about six months to see results from diligently making on-time personal loan payments.

Is taking out a personal loan bad for credit?

Taking on new debt can have a temporary negative effect on your credit score. But over time, while making regular, on-time payments, a personal loan has the potential to help your overall creditworthiness.


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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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How to Save Money on Gas

How to Save Money on Gas

With gasoline and home heating oil prices surging since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, consumers are looking for ways to cut their gas bills.

Crude oil prices have risen to their highest level since 2014 amid the war in Ukraine, which began in February 2022 — and has no clear path for a ceasefire in sight. Gasoline and heating oil are some of the petroleum products derived from crude oil, so higher gasoline and heating oil prices may be around for some time.

Fortunately, motorists and homeowners can save money on gas by embracing energy-efficient practices. Here are some of the easiest ways to reduce the pain both at the pump and when paying for heating costs.

15 Ways to Pay Less for Gas for Your Car and Home

Here are 15 ways you can pay less on fuel for your car and home heating system:

1. Follow the Speed Limit

Following the speed limit can help you save money on gas. In general, gas mileage decreases rapidly as you accelerate above 50 mph. Driving 55 mph rather than 65 mph can improve your gas mileage by 15%, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

2. Avoid Aggressive Driving

Aggressive driving, including speeding and rapid acceleration, can lower your gas mileage by 33% on the highway and by 5% on city roadways. Motorists who avoid aggressive driving can realize cost-savings by burning less fuel on roads and highways.

3. Remove Unnecessary Weight

Removing unnecessary weight from your vehicle can save money on gas. Storing an extra 100 pounds in your vehicle could reduce your miles per gallon by up to 2%, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

4. Use Cruise Control on Highways

Using cruise control on highways can help you save up to 14% on gas by maintaining a continuous speed. Constantly accelerating and decelerating burns more fuel, which gives you less bang for your buck on the road.

5. Keep Tires Properly Inflated

Keeping your tires properly inflated can improve your gas mileage by 3%. Conversely, driving with underinflated tires can decrease your gas mileage by 0.3% for each unit drop in pounds per square inch (psi) of air pressure.

6. Stick With Regular Gasoline

Gasoline prices vary by their octane level, with regular being the cheapest and premium being the most expensive. Unless your car requires premium fuel, you can save money by sticking with unleaded regular gasoline as opposed to choosing midgrade or premium alternatives.

President Joe Biden has predicted gas prices will go up further as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The potential for crude oil prices to continue rising may motivate some observers to invest in energy stocks. Others may see this as an ideal time to invest in utilities.

7. Don’t Idle When Parked

Allowing your car engine to run idle while parked is wasteful. Idling can consume up to half a gallon of fuel per hour, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. You can save gas money by turning off your car when it’s parked.

8. Search Online for Cheapest Fuel Stations

Some gas stations may offer cheaper fuel than other gas stations in your geographic area. You can search online for the cheapest gas stations in your area. Websites or apps like GasBuddy can help you find the lowest gas prices in your city or town.

9. Reduce Aerodynamic Drag

Your vehicle has to overcome wind resistance or aerodynamic drag whenever you drive it in the open. Reducing aerodynamic drag can save money on gas, and motorists can reduce aerodynamic drag by driving with the windows closed.

10. Minimize A/C Usage

Minimizing your vehicle’s air conditioner usage can save gas money. Using the air conditioner in some cases can reduce your vehicle’s fuel economy by more than 25%, which is akin to paying more at the pump over time, according to the EPA and U.S. Department of Energy.

11. Clean or Replace Air Filter as Necessary

Cleaning or replacing your vehicle’s air filter as necessary can save gas money, particularly if you’re driving an older vehicle manufactured before 1980. Older vehicles may feature a carbureted engine that becomes less fuel efficient when operating with a clogged air filter, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

12. Get Engine Tune-Ups as Needed

Getting engine tune-ups as needed can improve gas mileage by an average of 4%, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. An engine tune-up is a comprehensive inspection that determines whether any components of the engine need to be replaced.

13. Consider New Vehicle Options

You can consider buying a new or used vehicle with better gas mileage to save money on gas. Consumers can also consider buying all-electric vehicles to move away from gasoline and diesel fuel entirely.

14. Insulate Your Home

Homeowners can save up to 15% on heating and cooling costs by air sealing their homes and adding insulation in attics and other areas of the home, according to the EPA. This could be a worthwhile investment considering how the Ukraine invasion may affect oil, gas, and clean energy investments.

15. Lower Your Thermostat

Homeowners can save money on their home heating bills by setting their thermostats to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. The Delaware Public Service Commission says you can save 5% on your home heating costs for every degree you lower your thermostat below 70.

Considering the global economy and looking at oil and natural gas to understand Russia-Ukraine, homeowners in the New England and Mid-Atlantic states may consider thermostat adjustments as a cost-saving measure.

The Takeaway

The price of gasoline and heating oil may stay at its high level – or even rise as the conflict in Eastern Europe continues. Feeling the pinch in their wallets, consumers may want to try changing their habits and practices to be more energy efficient.

Another simple way to save money on gas is to pay for it using a credit card that offers cash back. [cc_three_percent]


Photo credit: iStock/ADragan

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1See Rewards Details at SoFi.com/card/rewards.

SoFi cardholders earn 2% unlimited cash back rewards when redeemed to save, invest, a statement credit, or pay down eligible SoFi debt.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

The SoFi Credit Card is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A. pursuant to license by Mastercard® International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.

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What Is Credit Card Consolidation?

First you take out a credit card because it has a great airline rewards program. Then you take out a card because it gives you a fabulous discount at your favorite retail spot.

Maybe you had some bills you couldn’t pay off right away, and so you decided to open up another card to cover those costs. And on and on you went, until suddenly you have a wallet full of credit cards—and a hard time keeping track of them.

If you find yourself in this situation, you may want to stop and assess to be sure you haven’t set yourself up to overspend, forget to make payments, and run up a heap of credit card debt. Consolidating your cards can sometimes provide a solution, allowing you to ditch keeping track of your excess cards and focus your energy on just one bill.

How Credit Card Consolidation Works

Credit card consolidation is the practice of combining your credit card balances with one new loan from a financial institution or another credit card company. Ideally, the new loan or credit card consolidation terms will allow for multiple credit cards—perhaps some with sky-high or variable interest rates—to be consolidated with one loan, ideally at a more manageable interest rate.

If you’re not quite sure how that could help your debt management, think of it this way: We all have that one closet or drawer that is just filled to the brim with random stuff—knick-knacks, boxes, childhood toys, and clothes that you just don’t have room for. It gets so bad that either you’re too afraid to open your closet, or the closet is so full that you physically can’t open it.

That closet represents your credit card debt. You might have one, two, three, or four or more cards—and you may even be making minimum payments—but with so many cards to juggle, you may not be paying attention to details on the bill, like how much interest and fees you’re accruing.

It may seem easiest to put this debt out of sight and out of mind. This feeling is understandable; credit card debt can be overwhelming to the point that it seems easier to just keep the closet door closed.

When you consolidate your credit cards, instead of having to remember multiple payment deadlines (and accruing multiple separate fees and interest balances), you’ll only have one payment.

Not only is debt easier to manage and pay off when you only have one loan, consolidating your credit card debt may mean that you could also get a lower interest rate, which may help reduce how much you pay over the long-term.

This factor may be especially helpful considering that the average credit card interest rate hovers around a whopping 17%.

Here’s a look at some of the common methods you may consider using in order to consolidate your cards.

Consolidating with a Credit Card Balance Transfer

One common way to consolidate your credit card debt is with a credit card balance transfer that puts all of your credit card debt onto one new card. In fact, many credit card companies will offer low interest—or even 0% interest—transfers for a certain period of time to encourage you to use a balance transfer for consolidation.

However, if you’re considering this route, there are a few things to remember. First, as mentioned, the low or 0% interest rate may only be introductory rates, which means you’ll have a limited amount of time to take advantage of them.

After the introductory period, rates my skyrocket, perhaps becoming even higher than your interest rates from before. So, this strategy may work best if you have a manageable amount of debt and could pay it off within the introductory period or shortly thereafter.

You may also have to pay a balance transfer fee, which may be a fixed fee or a percentage of the amount that you owe. If you carry a high balance on your cards, this fee could be prohibitively expensive.

Additionally, new purchases on this card may not be treated the same way as your transferred debt. For example, you may have to start making interest payments on new debt immediately.

Using a Debt Consolidation Loan

Your bank may offer a specific debt consolidation loan that allows you to corral your credit card debt—and even medical debt or personal loan debt—under one loan. One single loan can simplify your payments, and may even carry a lower interest rate than your credit cards.

As with credit card balance transfers, beware the teaser rate with these loans. Low interest rates may only last a short period of time before your bank hikes your interest rate. Consider the cost of fees to take out the loan as well.

Another important factor to consider is the term of the loan. While your interest rates may be lower, the length of time over which you’ll be paying may actually increase the amount of money you pay over time.

Taking out a Personal Loan

You may also want to consider a personal loan to help you consolidate your debt. Banks and lenders typically offer these unsecured loans. Interest rates may be lower than those you are currently paying, but you may want to consider that, depending upon your credit history and the lender’s criteria, the lowest interest rates may not be offered to you. Also, personal loans may come with origination fees, which may be between 1% and 8% of your loan.

Potential Benefits of Credit Card Consolidation

Credit card consolidation is an option to help make your debt more manageable. While it won’t magically whisk away your debt, better terms may give you the confidence, organization, and time you need to get rid of it altogether.

A credit card consolidation loan may help you pay the debt off sooner, or at a lower interest rate, and give you emotional and financial relief.

And because with consolidation all of your debt will be combined into one new loan, you’ll only have to remember one payment deadline, helping to reduce the likelihood of late payments and fees.

Unlike filing for bankruptcy or defaulting, although credit card consolidation may have an initial negative effect, if you do pay off your debt you may be able to raise your credit score in the long run. It may provide you with a tangible solution to tackle your credit card debt head on.

Should You Consider Credit Card Consolidation?

If you have a large amount of high-interest debt and want a simple, more streamlined way to manage your credit card payments, you may want to consider credit card consolidation via a fixed-rate, unsecured personal loan.

Understanding whether this is the right avenue for you also depends on your personal financial situation. Here are a few hypotheticals:

You…

Have a plan to pay off your debt.

Is credit card consolidation right for you?

Credit card consolidation isn’t a quick fix. It typically works best if you have a long-term debt management plan that includes budgeting and a plan to cut spending.

You…

Have manageable debt.

Is credit card consolidation right for you?

One possible way to figure out if your debt is manageable is if you answer “yes” to either of the following questions: Can you pay off your debt in five years? Is your debt less than half your yearly income?

You…

Are serious about paying off your debt.

Is credit card consolidation right for you?

Sometimes credit card consolidation can boost your confidence a little too much, resulting in a more relaxed approach to debt payoff. You can potentially avoid this pitfall by taking your debt payment plan seriously and committing to making the necessary payments (at least the minimums) each month.

You…

Can pay off your credit card debt in six months or less.

Is credit card consolidation right for you?

Probably not. If you can pay off your debt that quickly, then the savings you’d receive from consolidating your credit card debt would likely be minimal.

Potential Cons, and Other Factors to Consider

When you consolidate your credit cards, it’s easy to feel like you have a new lease on life. But in taking out a consolidation loan (or balance transfer), you are still taking on debt and will still need to make payments on time to avoid late fees and damaging your credit. Avoid simply kicking the proverbial can down the road by making a plan to pay off your new loan.

Lenders take your credit history, income, and other factors into account when considering you for a personal loan to consolidate your credit card or other debt.

If you’ve been making on-time payments, meet income criteria, and have a credit history that meets the lender’s eligibility requirements, then consolidating your credit card debt might be worth looking into. The sooner you can set yourself up to pay off your debt successfully, the better (generally), and credit card consolidation can be one way to go about it.

With a SoFi personal loan, you can check your rate and terms without affecting your credit score1 and if you like what you see you can apply to consolidate your credit card debt into a new loan with no origination, prepayment, or late fees—and that could help give you that confidence, organization, and time you need to get a better handle on your debt.

Visit SoFi to learn more about consolidating your credit card debt with a personal loan and see what rates you may qualify for.


Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


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