How to Make the Most of Your Credit Cards

No matter where you are in your financial journey, you probably have at least received a credit card offer. Even if you're currently carrying credit card debt each month, there are steps you can take to overcome that debt and even make money off of credit cards in the future.

Figure Out Where You Are

Open an electronic spreadsheet. In the far left column, list your credit cards by name. To the right, list your minimum monthly payment. The next column to the right should contain your total balance. Finally, list your interest rate to the right of that. You'll need a header for each column so you can sort this information.

Start Sorting

Sort your cards by total balance, smallest to largest. You're going to use the very popular snowball method to get the maximum benefit from the cards you have. Your goal, once this information is all listed, is to pay off that smallest total balance as soon as possible.

Credit Score Challenges

The lower your credit score, the more you will pay in interest. A poor credit score can cause a lot of unforeseen damage. You may

  • struggle to get an apartment if you have to move

  • be declined for a car loan if your vehicle breaks down

  • pay more for insurance


To protect your credit score, make sure you are always making at least the minimum payment on your cards. Late payments lead to higher interest and late fees.

A simple way to avoid these fees is to check your credit card balances each time you get a paycheck. If there's a minimum due, pay it as soon as your funds hit your bank account. Don't risk a late payment.

Leave Cards Active with a $0 Balance

Once you pay off a card, leave it open. After a month at $0 balance, your credit card company will notice. Call them and ask if they have any balance transfer promos. If not, let the card sit another month.

Watch your mail. You may notice offers for new cards that offer a 0% APR, or annual percentage rate for a specific term. Call the card company to confirm that you can roll the debt from your current cards and still get the 0% APR interest. There are card companies that will offer you 0% APR on new purchases only. Shred those offers.

Rolling Debt to a New Card

Once you have a legitimate 0% APR card offer, sort your debts again. Let's say you have an offer for 0% APR for 12 months. You have $6,000 in credit card debt remaining. If you roll all your remaining credit card debt onto that new or recently paid off card, you will need to either

  • pay at least $500 a month to pay off the card in 12 months

  • pay more if at all possible and wipe out the debt quickly

  • give yourself a calendar reminder 11 months from the start of the loan so you can roll it elsewhere when your year is up


There will certainly be a fee for transferring your debt. You'll either need to incorporate it into your monthly payment or roll it if you can't pay off the loan in time.

Make it Difficult to Use Your Cards

Even if they have a $0 balance, you need to leave your cards open. Place them somewhere inconvenient to reduce the risk of charging them up again. If you shop online, make sure your cards are at least 20 paces from where your computer lives. Don't cut them up and don't close your accounts.

Perceived Borrowing Power

Open but unused credit cards increase your borrowing power, at least on paper. This borrowing power is good for your credit score, as is making the minimum payment on time.

Another way to increase your borrowing power is to have a variety of debt. Credit cards are unsecured debt; there is no collateral to back up your credit card balance if you default. Car loans and mortgages are secured debt. If you don't pay, your car can be repossessed. Your house can go into foreclosure.

The Bottom Line

Rolling credit cards does not produce free money. You will nearly always pay a fee when you roll cards onto a new 0% APR card. However, wiping out your credit card debt will be easier if you can get the interest down.

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