Doing the Math to Wipe Out Credit Card Debt

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How much does credit card debt really cost you? Most people don’t even want to think about it, let alone do the math themselves. But with the federal reserve’s free and simple credit card repayment calculator, you don’t have much of an excuse.

All you do is plug in two numbers: your balance, and your credit card’s APR. After putting in the numbers and clicking “Calculate Now,” you’ll see how long it will take to pay off the debt if you’re only paying the minimum balance (presuming you don’t incur more debt in the meantime). The calculator also instantaneously tells you how much you’d be paying in interest charges while you were still in debt.

A Consumer Reports blog demonstrates with a sample, and the takeaway is: Do everything you can to pay off your credit card balance, in full, and pronto. If you don’t, you and your family will really be paying for it in the long run. From Consumer Reports:

Let’s say you were carrying a $6,000 balance, which is roughly the average total credit card debt an individual cardholder carries on bank-issued cards. Let’s assume further that you were paying 17.9% interest, which is the increased rate that Capital One recently imposed on many of its cardholders. The Federal Reserve calculator reveals that if you made only minimum monthly payments of $120, it would take 37 years to pay off that balance and cost you $15,523 in interest charges over that time.

The calculator also shows the impact of various plans for paying off that debt sooner. If you select five years as your deadline for paying it off, you’d need to make monthly payments of $153 a month and the total interest you’d pay would drop to $3,123. If you aimed to get rid of the debt in just two years, your monthly payment would be $300 a month and your total interest tab would come to $1,183.

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