How Refinancing Credit Card Debt Works

By Janet Schaaf · May 24, 2024 · 6 minute read

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How Refinancing Credit Card Debt Works

Spending is on the rise — and so is consumer debt. Americans carry, on average, three credit cards and have $6,501 in credit card debt. Overall, U.S. credit card debt is $129 billion higher than it was one year ago.

That amount of debt can be a challenge to pay down along with regular monthly household expenses. Some people may choose to refinance their high-interest credit card debt in an effort to secure a lower interest rate or a lower monthly payment. Refinancing credit card debt can be one way to make progress toward eliminating it completely.

What Is Credit Card Debt?

If you’re putting more purchases on credit cards than you can pay off in a monthly billing cycle, you have credit card debt.

Interest will accrue on the balance that carries over to the next billing cycle. If you don’t pay at least the minimum amount due, you’ll likely also be charged a late fee. Since credit cards use compound interest, you’ll be charged interest on accrued interest and fees. That can add up quickly and make it more difficult to get out of debt.

Carrying a balance on more than one credit card can make the debt even more difficult to manage. If your goal is to be free of credit card debt, refinancing can be one way to achieve that.

What Are Some Benefits of Refinancing Credit Card Debt?

Credit cards are revolving debt and typically have variable annual percentage rates (APRs).

Refinancing credit card debt with an installment loan that has a fixed interest rate, such as a personal loan, will mean you’ll have a fixed end date to your debt and will have the same APR for the entire term of the loan.

If you’re refinancing multiple credit card balances into one new loan or line of credit, you’ll have fewer bills to pay each month. That could potentially make monthly budgeting a simpler task.

Recommended: What Is a Good APR for a Credit Card?

Consolidate your credit card
debt with a personal loan from SoFi.

How Might Debt Refinancing Affect Your Credit Score?

Something to keep in mind when your goal is to pay down debt is that it’s a long game.

That being said, in the short term your credit score can decrease slightly when you apply for new credit and the lender looks at your credit report. During the formal application process, the lender will perform a hard inquiry into your credit report, which may result in a slight temporary drop of your credit score.

If you’re comparing multiple lenders, and they offer prequalification, they’ll do a soft inquiry into your credit report, which won’t affect your credit score.

Building your credit — or rebuilding it — through refinancing credit card debt can be possible if you make on-time, regular payments on the new loan. Reducing your credit utilization can be another positive result of refinancing credit card debt. Both of these can potentially increase your credit score.

It’s important not to overuse the credit cards you refinanced into a new loan, however, or you might accumulate even more debt than you started with.

Will Canceling My Unused Credit Cards Affect my Credit Score?

After you’ve refinanced your existing credit card debt into a new loan, you might be tempted to cancel those credit cards. But that strategy could negatively affect your credit score.

Whether it’s a good idea to cancel a credit card really depends on the card. If you’ve had the credit card for a long time, closing it would shorten your credit history, which could result in a credit score drop. But if it’s a card you genuinely don’t have a reason to keep, such as a retail card for a store you no longer shop at or a card that has a high annual fee that can’t be justified with your current spending habits, closing the account might be the right step for you.

If you plan to keep a credit card open, it may be a good idea to use it for a small, recurring charge so the card issuer doesn’t close it for inactivity. Setting up autopay can make this a convenient way to ensure the card stays open but is paid in full each month.

What Are Some Options for Refinancing Credit Card Debt?

Your overall creditworthiness will be a determining factor in finding available refinancing options. Lenders will look at your credit report and credit score, paying attention to how you’ve handled credit in the past and how much total debt you have in relation to your income.

Balance Transfer Credit Card

If you can qualify for a low- or no-interest credit card, you could use it to transfer a balance from another credit card. You’ll typically be charged a balance transfer fee equal to a percentage of the balance you’re transferring. The promotional rate on these types of cards is temporary, sometimes lasting up to 18 months or so, but can be as short as 6 months.

If you pay the transferred balance in full within the promotional period, you may not pay any interest at all, or a minimal amount. However, if you still have an outstanding balance on the card when the promotional period is over, the APR will revert to the card’s standard rate for balance transfers.

Home Equity Loan

A potential source of refinancing funds might be your home, if you have equity in it. Funds from a home equity loan can be used for just about anything, even things unrelated to your home. You can calculate how much equity you have in your home by subtracting the amount you owe on your mortgage from the current market value of your home.

In addition to the amount of equity you have in your home, lenders will typically also look at your income and your credit history to determine how much you might qualify for. It’s common for lenders to limit a home equity loan to no more than 80% to 85% of the equity you have in your home. There are typically closing costs with a home equity loan including appraisal fee, title search, origination fee, or other fees, and can be between 2% and 5% of the loan amount.

A home equity loan is a second mortgage secured by your home. If you fail to repay the loan, the lender can foreclose on your home.

Debt Consolidation Loan

Some lenders offer loans specifically for debt consolidation. These are actually personal loans, the funds from which can be used to pay off your existing credit card debt. Then, you’ll be responsible for repaying the debt consolidation loan. There may be fees charged on this type of loan, so be sure to look over the loan agreement carefully before signing it.

For a credit card consolidation loan to be as effective as possible at reducing your debt, it will ideally have a lower APR than you’re paying on your credit cards. In this way, you would be paying less in interest over the life of the loan. If a lower monthly payment is your goal, you may opt for a longer-term loan, but may pay a higher interest rate.

Recommended: How to Get a Debt Consolidation Loan with Bad Credit

The Takeaway

If your credit card debt is piling up and you’re finding it challenging to pay it down, you may be considering refinancing. Some credit card refinancing options include balance transfer credit cards with a promotional APR, a home equity loan, or a debt consolidation loan.

Think twice before turning to high-interest credit cards. Consider a SoFi personal loan instead. SoFi offers competitive fixed rates and same-day funding. Checking your rate takes just a minute.

SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Personal Loan overall.

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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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