5 ways to reduce credit card debt ahead of holiday shopping season

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About half of holiday shoppers have already started making purchases or plan to begin by Halloween, according to a recent Bankrate survey.  Most of them will use credit cards to pay for at least some of their purchases, the survey shows.

“A couple of years ago, early holiday shopping was all about the supply chain mess,” said Bankrate senior industry analyst Ted Rossman. “Now, I think the motivation is more financial.”

Many consumers are anticipating the effect of inflation on what they’re buying, he said, and they’re stressed about the cost of holiday shopping. But it’s also important to consider the rising cost of carrying credit card debt.

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Overall, credit card debt in the U.S. has reached a staggering record high of $1.03 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The average consumer carries about $6,000 in credit card debt — a 10-year high.

Many Americans are also carrying more card debt month to month.

“Part of what’s pushing debt higher is people struggling to make ends meet in the midst of high inflation,” said Matt Schulz, senior credit analyst at LendingTree. “They look at their credit card as a de facto emergency fund.”

But consumers are paying an exorbitant price for having that credit. 

The average credit card rate is now about 21%, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Yet Lending Tree finds the average interest rate on new card offers is 24.45%, the highest level since the firm started tracking credit card rates in 2019. Additionally, 1 out of 3 of the 200 cards it has reviewed has a rate of 29.99% or higher. 

Here are five strategies to start paying off credit card debt before you begin holiday shopping: 

1. Know what you owe

First, get a handle on your debt and what you owe. Find out the interest rate you’re paying on the total balance on each credit card. If you know how much you owe and what you’re paying to borrow that money, it will be easier to come up with a plan to reduce your debt. 

2. Review your credit report and score

You can get free access to your credit reports online from each of the three major credit rating agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — at to help you regularly manage your finances. 

Check for errors, including accounts that aren’t yours or that you didn’t authorize, or incorrect information on credit card limits or loan balances. You can dispute these errors directly online on the credit agency’s websites.

While the free credit reports on will not include your credit score, many credit card companies offer their customers a free look at their credit scores. Often when you get your score, it also will give you the risk factors that are affecting your score and what you can work on to improve it. 

Paying your credit card bills on time and using 10% or less of the available…

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5 ways to reduce credit card debt ahead of holiday shopping season

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