Were you enticed by a department store credit card discount offer? These types of offers are extremely popular because department store credit cards are notoriously easier to get than any other type—allowing you to start building up your credit score—and also because you get an immediate discount on the purchase you are about to make should you get approved (instant gratification is always popular).
In fact, I used to have my own Macy’s department store credit card. It was my first job out of college, and I had an important presentation to give to our shareholders. The night before, I drove to the nearest Macy’s and purchased my first business suit ensemble. Scoring a great deal with sales and a coupon, I decided I might as well keep the discounts flowing when they asked if I wanted to receive 10% off for opening a Macy’s credit card.
What made this a good deal for me was that I paid off the credit card before the grace period was over, so I did not accrue any interest. And thank goodness that I did; it turns out that department store credit cards also have some of the highest interest rates out there!
If you are stuck with a balance on your department store credit card at an egregious interest rate, then read on to find out how you can pay it off sooner rather than later.
Stop Spending on the Credit Card
Putting even more money onto your credit card will only dig a deeper hole of debt for you, so declare an intention for yourself that you are not going to spend any more money on this credit card. To help avoid the temptation, stop carrying it around in your wallet and keep it at home instead.
Gather Documentation and Facts
You first need to figure out how much money you owe on your department store credit card and the interest rate, if you don’t know already. You can find a phone number on your bill, or just turn your credit card over and call the 1-800 number on the back. Ask to speak with a representative. After several questions to verify your account information, they will be more than happy to help you.
Attempt to Negotiate a Lower Interest Rate
Since the interest rate on department store credit cards is typically high, you should try and negotiate a lower one. That’s because the lower your interest rate, the more your monthly payment goes towards principal and not towards interest. Using that same 1-800 number from above, call your credit card company and ask to speak to a representative. Request (be assertive, but nice; remember, they are doing you a favor) that they lower your interest rate (check out this article on more specific information). If after several attempts they refuse to do so, ask if they will lower it on a temporary basis. Then be sure to call back and ask the same thing once the old interest rate is reinstated.
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Get Your Numbers Straight
Take your debt and interest rate, and plug it into a free online debt tool such as ReadyForZero. The first piece of information you will learn is how long it’s going to take you to pay the debt off if you continue making the minimum payments. The second is how much you need to make in additional monthly payments in order to pay the debt off much sooner. The slider bar is a lot of fun, so be sure to play around with it until you reach the level of monthly payment and date of payoff that makes you comfortable.
Figure Out the Logistics of Sending in Extra Payments
Credit card companies do not want you to pay your debt off early, as it takes away the amount of interest they are going to make. As such, sometimes they make it difficult to send in additional payments. For example, some companies will simply move your due date further away if you send in extra money, and then not send another bill until this new due date. This is because they took your payment and applied it to a future payment, which will do nothing to help you pay the debt off more quickly.
To get around these barriers, take a few minutes to either call your credit card company, or peruse their website and figure out how to send in extra payments so that they are applied to the principal loan amount (not towards the interest, and not towards a future payment).
Send In those Extra Payments
Mark your calendar, or set up bill reminders so that you send in not only the minimum payment each month by its due date, but also additional to pay that card off early. This could mean that you need to find ways to earn extra cash, or to lower your current monthly bills. Just remember that the sacrifices you are making now will be quite worth it when you are out of debt.
There is one last thing you need to consider. Once you have paid the card off fully (congratulations, by the way), you need to decide whether or not you want to keep the line of credit open. If you close the line of credit, then you need to know that your credit score may take a dip. Be honest with yourself: can you keep this line of credit open without spending on it (or paying it off within the grace period), or do you need to close it to put a stop to future debt? The decision is yours, and you know yourself the best.
Image Credit: mwms1916