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In this issue of “Knowledge is Power!” we would like to educate you on how credit card companies are beginning to raise your minimum payments from 2% to 4% of your balance.
The big players have raised minimum payments from 2% to possible 4% of your balance, meaning you’ll get out of debt much quicker. Here’s how to cope until that day.
Good news: Credit card companies are doubling their minimum payments.
Bad news: Credit card companies are doubling their minimum payments.
So far, MBNA, Citibank and Bank of America have announced they are doubling minimum monthly payments on credit card balances from 2% to 4%. Others are expected to follow suit quickly. To some cardholders, that could be seen as a good thing. To others it could be devastating.
If you can handle the increase payment it’s good. Let’s face it, if you pay only a 2% minimum each month, your debt would probably last longer than most marriages. Doubling your minimum might put you back on the financial straight and narrow. Ostensibly designed to help consumers get out of debt faster, the increased minimums will force cardholders to pay off fees, interest and at least a portion of the principal each month.
But if you simply can’t make that doubled minimum month after month, it could put you and many other debtors in over your head.
But default isn’t your only option if your new payment seems out of reach.
What can you do? Well, while some banks are still at the 2-percent repayment level, you can transfer your balances to them. This will help until the transfer period is over. But don’t expect this to last! Call your credit card company a call to see if you can either negotiate a reasonable payment arrangement or reduce your interest rate. Otherwise, missing a payment can quickly have you fielding calls from collections agencies – and at that point, no one will be willing to listen to you.
Coming up with the cash:
If you’ve been carrying a big credit card balance and suddenly need an extra $200 a month to make your minimum payments, now’s a good time to re-examine your finances. With some smart spending shifts and careful planning, virtually anyone can dig an extra 10 to 15% out of their budget.
Here are some ways to get started:
See a credit counselor. The new bankruptcy law mandates at least two financial counseling sessions during the bankruptcy process, but if you see a counselor now you may be able to avoid reaching that point altogether.
Pay less to Uncle Sam. In 2004, 80% of taxpayers got a refund – on average, $2,400 a pop. By adjusting your withholdings, you can keep that money in your own pocket and put an extra $200 a month toward your debt.
Curb your spending. Even small changes, like brown-bagging lunch or renting one DVD a week instead of three, can free up to 10 to 15% of your income, says Peterson. To find expenses you can shave, track your spending for seven days. You may be surprised at how relatively small expenses – like 75 cents for a Diet Coke from the vending machine – add up over time.
Control your cards. Paying down a big debt is hard enough without adding more fuel to the fire. To avoid the temptation to spend, “Take every credit card except one out of your wallet,” recommends Williams. “Lock them away. People have frozen them in bowls of ice or given them to a trusted friend. I’m concerned about people walking around without some means of emergency cash. But we all agree what an emergency is, and a shoe sale at Nordstrom is not it.”