Five steps to get out of debt

Five steps to get out of debt

Falling into debt can happen to the best of us, and it’s an unfortunate position to find yourself in. Whether you’ve racked up a huge credit card bill on your last holiday, or your home loan is getting the best of you, debt is something you can take control of if you follow a few simple steps. 

  1. Highest interest rate first 

If you have multiple sources of debt, your assumption may be to pay the largest debt off first. However, experts believe that you should pay off the debt with the highest interest rate, as the interest will sting you far more than the debt itself. 

Example: Alice has a $10,000 car loan at 6.5 per cent interest and a credit card bill of $5,000 that charges 17 per cent interest. Experts believe she should prioritise the credit card debt, while still maintaining minimum allowable repayments on her car loan. 

  1. Don’t just pay the bare minimum 

If you’re only making minimum repayments on your outstanding debt you’re shooting yourself in the foot in the long term. For credit cards, minimum repayment rates are typically two per cent, or a set dollar amount (around $20). Making higher repayments, or ideally paying off your balance each month, is a key method to get out of debt. 

Example: Alice’s $5,000 credit card bill charges 17 per cent interest. If she makes the minimum repayments on her outstanding balance it would take her 29 years to pay off, and cost her $10,015 in interest.

  1. Switch lenders and save thousands on your mortgage 

If the biggest debt in your life is your mortgage, then you should be interested to know that refinancing your home loan can help you to not only reduce your loan costs but help you pay off your loan quicker. 

There are currently 531 owner-occupier home loans under 4 per cent on the market. If you goal is to pay your mortgage debt off faster, switching to a lower rate lender and maintaining the same amount of monthly repayments can help you to pay your debt off sooner while saving thousands in interest repayments. 

  1. Buy some extra time 

RateCity found that credit card holders who transfer their balance to a new card could save an average of $1,262 in interest and fees, and pay their debt off 6 months earlier*. If you have an outstanding credit card debt you know you can’t pay off this month, but know you could over the next year, a balance transfer might be the solution for you. 

A balance transfer allows you to move your existing credit card debt on to a new card. They traditionally offer zero per cent interest rate options from three months to two years, giving you much needed time to pay off your balance. However, you need to be diligent in paying back your debt. If you don’t pay off your balance in your set time you will be hit with a higher than average ongoing interest rate. 

Also, keep an eye out for credit card providers who charge a balance transfer fee (usually between one to three per cent). There are plenty of zero fee options available, so use credit card comparison tools to find the right balance transfer card for you. 

  1. Seek free advice from government hotlines 

Debt can be an overwhelming and stressful experience that can negatively impact all aspects of your life. If you’re feeling in over your head and don’t want to spend your much-needed money on a financial advisor, it’s worth getting in contact with the National Debt Helpline. They are a not-for-profit service that helps Aussies tackle their debt problems by putting them in contact with professional financial counsellors for free

According to Financial Counsellor, Anna Dooland, “when you don’t have enough money, it’s easy to feel like you have nowhere to turn. That’s where we come in: we can give you advice about your options. And the best part? Our services are 100% free.” 

*Figure: average debt figure of $4,225 based on the total outstanding balance accruing interest (source: Reserve Bank of Australia) divided by the number of card holders (Source: Roy Morgan Research). We have made the following assumptions: the $200 is repaid on time, every month, no new purchases are made, interest rates don’t change on your existing card, and the cardholder meets the lending criteria and is approved for the deal.

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Learn more about credit cards

What is a balance transfer credit card?

A balance transfer credit card lets you transfer your debt balance from one credit card to another. A balance transfer credit card generally has a 0 per cent interest rate for a set period of time. When you roll your debt balance over to a new credit card, you’ll be able to take advantage of the interest-free period to pay your credit card debt off faster without accruing additional interest charges. If your application is approved, the provider will pay out your old credit card and transfer your debt balance over to the new card. 

How to pay a credit card from another bank

Paying or transferring debt from one lender to the other is called a balance transfer. This involves transferring part or all of the debt from a credit card with one lender to a credit card with another. As part of the process, your new lender will pay out the old lender, so that you now owe the same amount of money but to a new institution.

Many credit card providers offer an interest-free period on balance transfers to help new applicants better handle their debt. During this period, cardholders are not required to pay interest on the debt they brought over from the other card. This can be a great opportunity for consumers to pay off credit card debt with no interest. There are often fees associated with balance transfers; normally, these are a percentage of the amount transferred.

So make sure you read the terms and conditions of the card before transferring any debt across.

How to get rid of credit card debt

  1. Calculate your debt. Credit card calculators make it easy to determine the repayments required to chip away at your debt in the shortest timeframe possible for your budget.
  2. Repayment plans. Take some time to formulate a credit repayment plan. Consider increasing your income, scaling back your lifestyle or refinancing.
  3. Talk to your credit provider. If you’re still struggling with your debt, give your credit provider a call. You may be able to come to a new arrangement.

How is credit card interest charged?

Your credit card will be charged interest when you don’t pay off the balance on your credit card. Your card provider or bank charges you the individual interest rate that is associated with your card, which is usually between 10 and 20 per cent. 

The interest will be added onto your bill each month or billing period if you don’t pay off the balance, unless you are in an interest-free period.

You will be charged interest on anything that hasn’t been paid for inside the interest-free period. Usually you will receive a notice on your bill or statement saying you will be charged interest so you have some form of notice before you’re charged.

How to calculate credit card interest

Credit card interest can quickly turn a manageable balance into unmovable debt. So being able to understand how interest rates translate into dollars is an important skill to acquire.

The common mistake people make is focusing on the credit card’s annual percentage rate (APR), which often sits between 15 and 20 per cent. While the APR does provide a rough idea of how much interest you’ll pay, it’s not entirely accurate.

This is because you actually accrue interest on your balance daily, not annually. So, you need to work out your daily periodic rate (DPR). To do this, divide your card’s APR by the number of days in a year (e.g. 16.9 per cent divided by 365, or 0.05 per cent). You can then apply this figure to the daily balance on your credit card.

How do you pay off credit cards?

The best way to pay off a credit card bill is to set a realistic spending budget and stick to it. Each month, you’ll get a credit card statement detailing how much you owe and how long it will take to pay off the balance by making minimum repayments. If you only make the minimum repayments, it will take you years to pay off your outstanding balance and add extra costs in interest charges. To avoid any extra charges, you should pay the entire bill. 

How does credit card interest work?

Generally, when we talk about credit card interest, we mean the purchase interest rate, which is the interest charged on purchases you make with your credit card.

If you don’t pay your full balance each month (or even if you pay the minimum amount), you are charged interest on all the outstanding transactions and the remaining balance. However, interest is also charged on cash advances, balance transfers, special rate offers and, in some cases, even the fees charged by the company.

The interest rate can vary, depending on the credit card. Some have an interest-free period, otherwise you start paying interest from the day you make a purchase or from the day your monthly statement is issued. So avoid interest by paying the full amount promptly.

How do you use a credit card?

Credit cards are a quick and convenient way to pay for items in store, online or over the phone. You can use a credit card as a cashless way to pay for goods or services, both locally and overseas. You can also use a credit card to make a cash advance, which gives you the flexibility to withdraw cash from your credit card account. Because a credit card uses the bank’s funds instead of your own, you will be charged interest on the money you spend – unless you pay off the entire debt within the interest-free period. If you pay the minimum monthly repayment, you will be charged interest. There are many different credit card options on the market, all offering different interest rates and reward options.

What does Westpac credit card insurance cover?

If you own a Westpac credit card, one of the perks may be  free travel insurance. If you’re eligible, you may be covered if you get sick while travelling, have lost your luggage, have to cancel a trip or have an accident while you’re on the move.

Besides these standard inclusions, the Westpac credit card insurance policy may also cover you for hospital essentials, emergency dental treatment and alternative transport if your original plans go awry. It may also cover loss of income when you get back home after being sick  overseas and your pets’ boarding costs too.

If you have any queries, the Westpac credit card insurance contact number is 1800 091 710. You can submit a claim online.

 

How to increase your Qantas Premier credit card limit

When your income or spending habits change, you might wish to increase your credit card limit. The Qantas Premier credit card allows you to do this over the phone. You can contact Qantas Premier Card Support by calling on 1300 992 700. Unlike some other credit providers, Qantas doesn’t give you the option to increase your limit online.

Qantas will only accept your application if you have a good history of repayment and have not increased your credit or bought another credit product from Qantas in the past six months.

Before approving your Qantas Premier credit card limit increase, Qantas will perform a credit assessment on your current financial circumstances and ask why you would like to increase your credit limit.

To ensure that there are no bumps in your application process, you must provide accurate and recent information about your financial situation. You should also account for any future changes you’re anticipating which could hinder your ability to repay the loan.

Once the assessment is complete, Qantas will either approve or deny your application. If they approve it, you will need to sign a credit limit increase agreement - and you can request a written copy of the credit assessment. However, if your application is rejected, Qantas can opt not to provide a copy of the assessment.

Can I transfer money from my American Express credit card to my bank account?

If you’re an American Express credit card customer, you may not be able to transfer money from your credit card to your bank account. However, you may be eligible for cash advances, which involves withdrawing money through an ATM. 

To qualify for a cash advance, you’ll likely have to enrol for American Express Membership Rewards. Consider checking your online credit card account to see if you can withdraw a cash advance and, if so, the fees and charges you’ll incur for this transaction. 

You should remember that cash advances are different from balance transfers, which were available with some American Express credit cards earlier. Balance transfers allow customers to consolidate debt from high-interest credit cards to a credit card offering a lower interest rate. If you only recently applied for an American Express credit card, balance transfers may not be available irrespective of the card you own. 

What is the CUA credit card increase limit process?

A credit limit is pre-assigned based on factors like your income, expenses, and debt by the card-issuing company. It varies from time to time based on credit utilisation and changes to your circumstances.

If your income has increased or your liabilities have reduced, you can request for an increase of your CUA credit card limit. You can lodge the request via online banking on the website, or by visiting the closest branch, or by downloading the application form and mailing it. While making the application, you may need to provide information about your income, employment status, desired limit, and the reason for the increase. The card-issuing company will assess your request before approval.

Before you apply for an increase to the credit limit, ensure your bills are paid in full and you aren’t asking for a very steep enhancement.

How can I increase my credit card limit on my American Express card?

If you want to increase the credit limit on your American Express (AMEX) credit card, you will need to apply through the AMEX Online Services, or by calling the number on the back of your card. You may need to share personal information that the bank can use to assess whether the requested limit is suitable for you and your current financial status. Once your application is approved, your new limit will be ready for use within an hour.

How do you use credit cards?

A credit card can be an easy way to make purchases online, in person or over the phone. When used properly, a credit card can even help you manage your cash flow. But before applying for a credit card, it’s good to know how they work. A credit card is essentially a personal line of credit which lets you buy things and pay for them later. As a card holder, you’ll be given a credit limit and (potentially) charged interest on the money the bank lends you. At the end of each billing period, the bank will send you a statement which shows your outstanding balance and the minimum amount you need to pay back. If you don’t pay back the full balance amount, the bank will begin charging you interest.