3 key takeaways about managing credit card debt

Producer
Yahoo Finance

Credit card debt affects millions of Americans. In fact, the average debt for a household that carries a balance is $15,983. Yahoo Finance partnered with Refinery29 this week and brought three experts in to discuss the best practices for managing credit card debt: Barbara Ginty, a CFP and founder of Planancial; Marcus Garrett, host of the Paychecks and Balances podcast; and Leslie Tayne, a debt attorney in New York City.

Here are answers to some of the questions we got from readers.

If you have debt, should you avoid using a credit card altogether?

“I think it depends on the type of debt that you have,” said Ginty. “Obviously, if all of your debt is credit card [debt], then you’re just going to be digging yourself into a bigger hole that would be hard to get out of. I’m cautious to use a credit card; it’s better if you can pay for it in advance.”

Some kinds of debt are good, such as mortgages or student loans. There are a lot of factors that go into how credit plays into your life: your income, your total debt and how you feel about incurring debt. If using debt makes you queasy, there’s nothing wrong with not using it.

Does asking for a credit limit increase affect your credit score?

Credit limit increases don’t hurt your score. If you raise your credit limit without increasing spending, you will lower your credit utilization rate (how much of your credit you use each month) – which would boost your score. But the trick is to make sure you don’t mistake more available credit for more available cash.

Garrett notes that when you call to ask for a credit limit increase, you can ask them ‘Will this be a hard credit check or a soft credit check, and will this impact my credit score?’”

Garrett suggests keeping your profile up-to-date on your credit card’s website. Most will allow you to list your income, family size and other personal information that can impact how much credit they might extend to you.

Should I consolidate my debt?

“It is kind of a catch-all term,” said Tayne. “Do your research about who you’re working with to consolidate your debt, because consolidating your debt could include a debt settlement, it could include consumer credit counseling, it could include a loan.”

If you’re over your head in debt, there are groups that can help you sort through your options. Reach out to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling to find a counselor in your area. Remember: it’s better to reach out before you get so deep in debt that you can’t find a way out.

For answers to more of your questions …

4 debt-related words everyone should know
How to minimize debt while in college (beyond ramen)
Tips to pay off debt from 7 people who have actually done it

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