SAN ANTONIO – Just as people are resorting more to credit cards to cover the higher costs of gas, groceries and more, they are about to be hit with a double whammy as the interest rate on that card is about to jump.
Elsa Robles doesn’t usually carry a balance on her credit cards. She does now.
“Lately, I do know we’ve been relying on them, unfortunately,” she said. “Prices are up on everything.”
Now that the Federal Reserve raised borrowing rates, the APR on credit cards will soon follow suit. Cardholders could see the higher rate as soon as their next statement.
If you pay off your credit cards every month, a higher rate may not make a difference. But, for people who carry a balance, it’s about to cost more every time they swipe.
Money advisers say that now is the time to pay down that credit card debt.
“A lot of people don’t realize this is new and existing balances affected by these rate hikes,” said Ted Rossman, senior analyst for Bankrate’s CreditCards.com.
If you can’t pay off the cards in total every month, Rossman suggests other strategies.
“Get a zero percent balance transfer card. That’s my top tip if you’re wrestling with credit card debt,” he said. “These let you avoid interest for up to 21 months. That’s a huge benefit.”
There are caveats. You need good credit to get one, there is usually a 3% to 5% transfer fee and you need to pay the card off in the allotted time or get hit with huge interest.
Another option he suggests is to get a low-rate personal loan to pay off the cards. Or, if your credit isn’t great, consider a nonprofit credit counseling agency to help.
You can always try calling your credit card company and ask them for a lower rate. That often works, but it won’t be a large reduction.
Even more rate hikes are expected this fall, making credit cards more expensive than ever. Rossman expects the average credit card interest rate to be as much as 19% by the end of the year.
“Credit cards -- those rates are so high. It’s really hard to build wealth when you are paying the credit card company 15% to 20% each month,” he said.
Bottom line, it’s best to plan now to avoid deep debt later.
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