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By some estimates, Americans collectively carry about $1 trillion in credit card debt. If your own credit card debt has skyrocketed, the good news is there are known strategies to pay your debt down. It may take some time and self-discipline, but it can be done.

Although it is much easier to rack up thousands of dollars in credit card debt than it is to pay it off, financial experts counsel that step one is to determine how much you owe, and to whom. First, determine which of your cards have balances, and add up the total amount you owe. Some advisors subscribe to the Avalanche Method. This method involves paying down the card that has the highest interest rate first, and then moving on to the card with the second highest interest rate and paying that one off. The method involves working your way down to your card with the lowest interest rate. This method suggests that you pay minimum balances to all of your cards, except the one with the highest interest rate, to which you should pay as much as you can manage each month until it is paid off.

Personal finance expert Dave Ramsey came up with a different strategy, called the Snowball Method. This method focuses on your credit card balances, rather than interest rates. Consumers who use this method pay off their smallest balances first and work their way up to the highest balances. The idea is to eliminate as many individual debts as possible by paying the lowest balances first, since that may be more expedient. By the time you get to your highest balance, all of the others will have been paid. The disadvantage of this method is simply that by not working harder on your highest interest rate card, the interest will continue to add up. You could end up paying much more in the long run.

Other consumers opt for personal loans to pay off their credit card debt. If the loan requires you to agree to an interest rate that is lower than the credit card rates, a loan may make perfect sense. This way you can consolidate all of your credit card bills into one monthly loan payment. If you automate your payment through your online banking application, a set amount will be paid every month without you having to physically make the payments. This takes self-discipline, since the only way the loan works to your advantage is if you stop using your credit cards, except for emergencies.

Personal finance gurus say you should keep your credit card accounts open, even if you pay them off. Owning the accounts with low or zero balances is helpful when companies check your credit utilization. As you can see, there is light at the end of the tunnel – you just need to flick the switch.

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