Credit card debt exceeds emergency savings for many

16% of people have no credit card debt, no emergency fund, survey says

Here are the best credit cards to earn cash, travel rewards
Here are the best credit cards to earn cash, travel rewards

America’s plastic habit is showing.

Nearly three in 10 people, or 28%, have more credit card debt than emergency savings, according to a new survey from Bankrate.com. Another 16 percent said they have no credit card debt, but no emergency fund, either.

And 45% of those surveyed said growing their emergency piggy bank is a higher priority than paying down debt.

It’s a balancing act to tackle both.

“I would say try to work on both at the same time,” said Kent Copeland, a financial adviser with Ameriprise.

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Because it’s not if, but when, one of life’s emergencies will pop up, Copeland said it’s essential to have something of an emergency savings so you don’t have to use credit cards and add to your debt.

“Generally, I say start trying to get one month’s salary,” he said.

Copeland suggests having your paycheck directly deposited with a portion going into savings. If your employer doesn’t offer direct deposit, set up an automatic transfer with your bank.

As for those credit cards, Copeland’s suggested strategy is to pay the minimum on all but one and knock that one out as quickly as possible. Which one?

“Some would say the highest interest rate,” Copeland said. “I would say the one with the lowest balance. I think you need a pat on the back. I think you need to get a card paid off and see that it’s working.”

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Transferring your balance to a card with a zero percent interest promotional offer is an option worth considering, he said, as long as you don’t keep transferring and ignoring the debt.

While there is no one right way to find financial balance, Copeland stressed the importance doing something and being disciplined.

“My suggestion is to find an amount that you can pay down the debt and build up your savings,” he said. “And, stay with it.”

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