Credit Card—and Credit Card Debt—FAQs

April 09, 2020 · 9 minute read

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Credit Card—and Credit Card Debt—FAQs

If you’re having trouble getting out of credit card debt, you’re not alone. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Center for Microeconomic Data , household debt is higher than ever before. In the last quarter of 2019, household debt increased by $193 billion (1.4%). This marked the 22nd quarter in a row that household debt increased.

The current total is $1.5 trillion more than the country’s previous household debt peak in the third quarter of 2008. And credit card balances increased by $46 billion.

While these statistics provide a snapshot-view of what’s happening in many households across the United States, what probably matters most to you is finding ways to manage your own debt. To help, this post will provide some answers to frequently asked questions about credit cards and associated debt.

What Are (some of) the Benefits of Having a Credit Card?

There are a variety of advantages when it comes to credit cards, including that you:

•   don’t need to carry as much cash with you
•   can track your purchases
•   can make larger purchases
•   can benefit from reward programs and other discounts
•   can build your credit score with responsible use
•   have access to emergency funds when needed
•   can use your card to secure a hotel room, rental car, and so forth

Although this is not intended as a complete list of benefits, and credit cards are not for everyone, it does contain many of the significant advantages of having a credit card.

What Are (some of) the Disadvantages of Having a Credit Card?

Although the convenience of credit cards is significant, it’s possible for these cards to become a little bit too convenient. Some people believe that as long as they can make their minimum monthly payments on their credit card debt, they’re in good financial shape. In reality, though, making minimum payments isn’t usually enough. Typically, it can cause debt to increase because of compounding interest.

For example, let’s say you’ve got a balance of $5,000 on your credit card; the interest rate is fixed at 16.71%, and you’re paying $100 monthly. At that pace, it would take you five years-plus to pay off your original debt of $5,000, with an additional $3,616 in interest alone. That’s a simplified hypothetical, but if you’d like to get an idea of how much you may be paying back on your own credit card debt, you can use SoFi’s credit card interest calculator.

Another disadvantage of credit cards is that your account numbers can be stolen, leading to potentially serious identity theft problems. Plus, these thieves can use your account information to rack up charges and it can be a real hassle to address this issue.

Choosing the Right Credit Card for Your Situation?

Those who use a credit card responsibly might find it worthwhile to check around to find a card that offers the rewards they’d use and benefit from. These rewards can include frequent flyer miles, loyalty points, cash back, and so forth.

If you don’t typically pay off your balance in full each billing cycle, however, then credit card rewards might not be worth it since they typically have higher rates or annual percentage rates (APRs).

If you often carry a balance on your credit cards, then it could make sense to shop around for the best interest rate. These cards probably won’t have all of the extras that come with reward cards, but they could help you accrue less interest.

If you’re just building your credit or need to repair your credit score, a secured card may be worth considering. This functions like a typical credit card except that you’d need to put a deposit into the bank to serve as a backup.

If you close the account with your credit in good standing or you improve your credit to the degree that you’d qualify for an unsecured credit card, then the deposit is returned.

As another option, you can load a prepaid credit card with a certain amount of money, through cash, direct/check deposits, or online transfers from a checking account. You can use that card until the funds are used up.

Although this can make sense in certain circumstances, perhaps because of a challenging credit history, this type of card doesn’t help you to build or repair credit, and can come with plenty of fees.

Fees for prepaid credit cards can include a monthly fee, individual transaction fees, ATM fees, reload fees, and more. If you go this route, compare options to get the best deal.

Here’s the bottom line on this FAQ. What’s most important is to find a credit card that dovetails with your needs and usage patterns.

Using a Balance Transfer Credit Card

Balance transfer cards can allow you to consolidate your credit card debt onto a card that, for an introductory period, comes with a low or zero-interest rate. Sometimes, these low-to-no-interest credit cards make good sense.

For example, if you have a balance on a high interest credit card and you are anticipating a bonus or tax return in a couple of months, then it can make sense to pay off the high interest card with a zero-interest one, and then pay off that credit card with your bonus or tax return before the introductory period is up.

Or, if you want to make a larger purchase and have planned your budget in a way that allows you to pay off the balance during your zero-interest period, that might also work out well.

Problems with no-interest credit cards can include that, if you don’t pay off the balance in your introductory period then the card reverts to its regular interest rate that can be quite high. Plus, in some cases, if you don’t pay off the entire balance within the introductory period, you’ll owe interest on the original balance transfer amount.

Sometimes, there are balance transfer fees that can make this strategy more expensive than if you hadn’t transferred a balance in the first place.

If you have outstanding credit card debt that you aren’t paying in full each month—and if a balance transfer credit card doesn’t seem like the right strategy for you—here’s another idea to consider: a credit card consolidation loan.

What Is a Credit Card Consolidation Loan?

A personal loan, sometimes referred to as a credit card consolidation loan, is an unsecured installment loan with fixed or variable interest rates. It is ideally repaid in the short term (e.g., three to five years), and it can be used to consolidate credit card debt and hopefully offers a lower interest rate than your current credit card(s)interest rate. Your loan payments include both principal and interest.

OK, a credit card loan’s correct name is a credit card consolidation loan, which is just another name for an unsecured personal loan. How is a personal loan different from other types of loans?

A personal loan is an unsecured loan. Unlike a mortgage, there is no collateral attached to or “secured” for a personal loan. For example, if you take out a mortgage loan, your home becomes the collateral for your mortgage. If you default on your mortgage, your lender can then own your home.

With most personal loans, there is no underlying collateral required. When a loan has no collateral, it means it’s unsecured. Since the lender assumes more risk with an unsecured loan (given there isn’t a home to repossess should a borrower default), the interest rate on a personal loan is usually higher than the interest rate on a secured loan.

Considering a Personal Loan?

If you have credit card debt and want to lower your monthly payments and get a better interest rate than you currently have, a personal loan can be worth considering, since it can enable you to consolidate your credit card debt. Instead of paying off multiple credit card balances, consolidating your credit card debt into a personal loan means you can just make one convenient monthly payment.

Over the last year, the average credit card interest rate has hovered around 10% is just a small bump, however, and taking on more debt is not typically ideal—especially if you start adding to the credit card(s) balance(s) you zeroed out with a personal loan. . Personal loans can come with lower rates, especially for borrowers with strong credit histories and income, among other factors that vary by lender.

Credit scores are typically one of the main factors considered by lenders when reviewing applications for personal loans. So, it can make sense to know your score before you apply; in general , a FICO® Score between 740-700 is considered “very good” while 800-850 is considered “exceptional.” .

To get a rough estimate of how much you might be able to save by consolidating your credit card debt with a personal loan, you can take a look at SoFi’s personal loan calculator.

In sum, a personal loan can help you by offering a lower interest rate than what you have for your existing credit card debt. The interest rates on personal loans are often much lower than the interest rates on credit cards.

This means that if you consolidate your credit cards into one lower-rate loan, for short and fixed term, you could reduce the total interest you’d pay on the debt and have an opportunity to pay off your debt more quickly.In some circumstances, adding a personal loan could also be beneficial for your credit score.

Why? Because having a mix of credit types can help your score; with the FICO® Score, for example, your “credit mix” accounts for 10% of your base score—and, if you consolidate your credit card debt (considered “revolving” credit) with a personal loan (“non-revolving” credit) and you keep your credit card open, you now have a mix of revolving and non-revolving forms of credit.

10% is just a small bump, however, and taking on more debt is not typically ideal—especially if you start adding to the credit card(s) balance(s) you zeroed out with a personal loan.

Borrowing a Personal Loan

Applying for a personal loan with SoFi is typically a simple and fast process. Loan eligibility takes into consideration a few different personal financial factors, including credit history and income . If you’re interested in applying for a personal loan with SoFi, you can review the eligibility requirements for more information—and see your rates in just two minutes, before you even apply.

SoFi offers loans up to $100,000 with low fixed interest rates, no prepayment penalties and no fees required. SoFi also offers unemployment protection to qualifying members who lose their job through no fault of their own. If you have questions while applying for a loan online, you can contact SoFi’s live customer support 7 days a week.

Interested in exploring a credit card consolidation loan with SoFi? Learn more.

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.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

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 .

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