As far as credit card debt goes, Wisconsin residents are in relatively good shape.
According to a recent Creditcards.com report, Wisconsin residents carry the third-lowest average credit card balance in the United States. The study shows the typical Wisconsinite has a credit card balance of nearly $4,700.
Paying off that debt at a rate of 15 percent of monthly earnings — in Wisconsin, that's an average of $393 — it would take 14 months to pay off the balance and a little more than $400 in interest that would accumulate.
That sounds pretty good compared to Alaska, where residents have the largest average credit card balance, about $7,500. Those individuals would need 20 months to pay off their debt, using the same 15 percent of earnings, and would pay nearly $1,000 in interest.
Forking over hundreds of dollars each year in credit card interest is largely avoidable. Yet, many consumers don't realize how their spending and payment habits can affect them over time.
Here is some insight from some finance experts on how to control debt and avoid drowning in interest payments.
Research the cards
According to Creditcards.com, the average credit card interest rate is just over 15 percent.
However, finding a credit card with a low interest rate isn't always easy. As a result, consumers often stick with their longtime financial institution when they chose a card, regardless of the interest rate.
Comfort and attention to detail
A 2010 law requires credit card statements to include a payoff timeline that includes interest costs if cardholders make only the minimum payment each month.
However, it's easy to get comfortable chipping away at a big balance with small monthly payments and not taking into account the extra cost of interest, and people who pay their bills online often don't look at the detailed statement.
The minimum payment may look friendly, but only paying the minimum can add thousands of dollars in financing costs, especially for those with multiple cards with higher interest rates.
Living paycheck-to-paycheck isn't ideal, but for some it's reality that makes it hard to look past the current month's expenses, like rent and other monthly bills. That may deter consumers from paying credit card bills in full — mainly because they think they can't afford to. This isn't necessarily the case, though.
Taking out a calendar and budgeting several months out gives consumers a better understanding of just how much income they have and where it's all going. That makes it easier to see where money can be saved and used to make slightly bigger payments on card balances now, which will save money on future interest payments.
Many consumers sign up for retail-specific credit cards to take advantage of promotional discounts. Those offers can provide real savings, but the only time a credit card promo is a good idea is when the consumer can pay the balance off right away. Otherwise, the interest will quickly outweigh the savings.
For that reason, those with a history of late payments and accumulating interest might want to avoid those offers and instead pay for more things with cash and avoid interest-rate worries all together.
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