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What is Credit Card Consolidation?

January 28, 2020 · 6 minute read

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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.


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