Ways to pay down a credit card balance faster

Reducing Credit Card Interest Expense

by Gary Foreman

Is there any advantage to making more than one (even up to four) payments to my credit card company each month? I work at several housecleaning jobs for the sole purpose of paying off my credit card. I'm wondering if there would be any interest-savings benefit if I made partial payments at the end of each work week, rather than "saving up" the money for that payment which normally is made once a month.

Sherry's right. Sending in two or more payments a month will reduce her interest expense on most credit card accounts. But, before we see how much she'll save, let's look at how credit card companies calculate interest. The method they choose will make a difference in how much you owe and when you owe it.

The most common method is "average daily balance." Each day your account is credited with any payments received and any new charges are added. At the end of the month, the daily balances are averaged and that amount is multiplied by your interest rate to determine how much interest you owe for the month.

The "adjusted balance" method is skewed in the cardholder's favor. Any charges made during the billing period aren't counted until the end of the period. And if full payment is received before the end of the period, no interest is owed.

In the "two-cycle balance" method, two separate average balances are calculated. One is for the current month, and the second is for the prior billing period. They're combined to calculate the interest owed. Generally, this method leads to a higher balance.

While we're talking about credit card interest rates, let's spend a moment on "variable" and "fixed" rates. A variable loan will change weekly based on some published rate (like the prime rate). A fixed rate is only fixed until the credit card company tells you they're changing it. All they need is to give you written notice and 15 days warning. Like your mortgage, a variable rate is best when rates are going down. A fixed rate is better when rates are headed up.

Related: Pay Down Credit Card Debt Faster with Micropayments?

Sherry also will want to know if she's being charged a "tiered APR" on any of her cards. Cards often offer one low rate for balance transfers, but any new purchases are at a different, higher rate. Another tiered method charges one low rate for balances up to a specified limit. Balances over the limit are charged at a higher rate.

OK, so how much could Sherry save in interest expense? Let's walk through the math. If she sent a second payment in the middle of the month, she'd save 15 days worth of interest on the amount that was sent in early. Suppose that her interest rate was 14% and she was going to send in $50. If her annual rate is 14%, the rate for fifteen days is .57%. (.14/365 days x 15 days = .0057) Sherry would save $.28 in interest (.0057 x $50).

Sherry can do the calculation using her numbers, but she'd lose out on any interest (however small) that she might be earning in her checking account for the same amount of time. Not very encouraging.

But that doesn't mean that Sherry can't do anything to reduce her interest expense. There are other strategies that could pay off for her.

Use these guidelines to choose the best plan to pay off your credit card balances.

One way to reduce interest expense is to call your credit card company and ask for a lower rate. They're not obligated to offer you better rates. But, if you've been a reliable customer, a simple phone call could save you money.

She should make sure that tiered accounts aren't bloating her interest expense. If so, she'll want to use a different card with a lower rate for new purchases or transfer a higher tier balance to a different lower rate card.

If Sherry has more than one card, she should pay off the one that's charging the highest rate first. If she only has one card, she might want to transfer the balance to a new card with a lower rate.

Compare Balance Trasfer Credit Cards and find the best one for you.

Also, prepayments make a big difference. If she were to add just $10 each month for a year at our 14% rate, she would reduce her interest expense by $29.50 during that year.

Bottom line? Sending in a payment in the middle of the month would reduce some interest expense because you're borrowing less money for a shorter period of time. But, unless you can afford to make a significant payment in the middle of the month, you'll probably save more money by using other techniques.

Reviewed February 2018

Take the Next Step

  • Looking for a new credit card? Compare cards now to find the best card for you.
  • Stop allowing debt to cramp your lifestyle and rob you of peace of mind. The TDS ebook How to Conquer Your Debt No Matter How Much You Have can give you back both. Get started today!
  • Funding an emergency fund now can help prevent debt problems and even bankruptcy later. Start saving today with these 11 easy ways to find $1000 for an emergency fund.
  • Stop struggling to get ahead financially. Subscribe to our free weekly Surviving Tough Times newsletter aimed at helping you 'live better...for less'. Each issue features great ways to help you stretch your dollars and make the most of your resources. Subscribers get a copy of Are You Heading for Debt Trouble? A Simple Checklist And What You Can Do About It for FREE!
Gary Foreman

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar Stretcher.com website and newsletters in 1996. He's the author of How to Conquer Debt No Matter How Much You Have and he's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money, Credit.com and CreditCards.com. Gary shares his philosophy of money here. Gary is available for audio, video or print interviews. For more info see his media page.

Share your thoughts about this article with the editor.

Debt Book
Stay Connected with TDS

Do you struggle to get ahead financially?

Surviving Tough Times is a weekly newsletter aimed at helping you stretch your dollars and make the most of your resources.

Debt Checklist

And get a copy of Are You Heading for Debt Trouble?
A Simple Checklist and What You Can Do About It
for FREE!

Your Email:

View the TDS Privacy Policy.

Debt Book