How Should You Really Pay Off a Credit Card?

Mount Everest

If your credit card debt feels like Mount Everest, it’s time to take action | KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images

You used a credit card to cover extra expenses in college, and now that debt has ballooned — and you’ve got three other cards with balances, too. You used credit to cover expensive medical bills in your family. Or, you signed up for five cards with great rewards programs, but you haven’t been able to keep up with the payments, and the rewards certainly aren’t paying for themselves. Whatever situation got you here, you’re now staring at a mountain of credit card debt, and you’re not sure how to shovel out.

From April to June of 2016, American consumers racked up $34.4 billion dollars in credit card debt, adding to the staggering amounts that have already accumulated, according to a recent WalletHub analysis. Both WalletHub and MarketWatch predict that total credit card debt nationwide could reach $1 trillion by the end of the year — a figure not seen before in American history. Spread across all Americans, the average household debt works out to about $5,700. But when you count only those people who carry a credit card balance, the average debt rises to an estimated $16,048.

The hardest step is choosing to tackle your credit card debt head-on. After that, it’s all about choosing the best repayment method. There are two main strategies for credit card repayment; what experts call the avalanche and snowball methods. (Your mountain of debt is evidently covered in snow.) We talked with Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst for CreditCards.com, to find out the main pros and cons of each strategy.

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