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Living with credit, Protecting yourself

To cut credit card debt, change how you pay your bills

Kelly Dilworth

When you’re dealing with a large amount of credit card debt, every tweak you make to your spending and payment habits can add up to big savings over time. One of the easiest ways to speed up your debt repayment: Alter your bill-paying routine so you’re maximizing your card payments and avoiding unnecessary charges.

Many credit cards offer tools you can use to tailor your payment strategy, including flexible due dates and customizable automated payments. There are also a number of apps available to help you manage and keep track of your bills or even pay them.

Here are just some of the ways you can use readily available payment tools to help you manage your credit card bill payments and make them work for you:

1. Choose your credit card due date.
Feeling crunched by multiple bills that are all due at once? You don’t have to stick with the payment due date your bank assigned to you. Many banks will allow you to request a new due date for your credit card bill. (See: “How to change your credit card due date.”)

Spreading out your payments could nudge you into paying down a larger chunk of your credit card bill since you won’t feel as drained from spending a whole bunch of money all at once.

2. Automate your bill payments.
If you’re prone to paying late fees due to forgetfulness, setting up automatic payments is an easy fix. Card companies will typically let you choose how much of your bill you want paid off each month and will automatically collect those payments. (See: “Credit card bill autopayments: : Tips for getting it right.”

Be sure to verify how much you set your autopayments to be. For example, when I set up automatic payments on a rarely used Bank of America credit card, I didn’t realize until too late that it was only paying the minimum amount due. As a result, I wound up paying interest on a balance I could have easily paid off in full.

3. Pay your bills more than once a month.
Some automatic payment tools allow you to accelerate your bill payments and pay down your card in multiple monthly installments. If you don’t want to rely on automatic payments, you can also manually pay down your card charges throughout the month or use an app such as Prism or Mint Bills to pay your bills on the go.

Making multiple payments will not only help you keep your debt in check, it could also help reduce the total amount of interest you have to pay by lowering your average daily balance (the amount issuers typically use to calculate interest).

4. Choose which purchases you want to pay for, and when.
Depending on your credit card, you also may be able to specify which purchases you want to automatically pay for each month, on top of your minimum payment.

For example, U.S. Bank’s FlexControl tool lets you choose a specific category that always gets paid off, such as groceries, gas, dining or entertainment. The tool helps cardholders who can’t afford to pay their balance in full commit to paying a substantial portion of their charges, including everyday purchases. It also encourages people to pay more of their bill than they might otherwise if they just picked an arbitrary amount to pay each month.

5. Use an app to turn your credit card into a faux debit card.
If you’re wary of adding more debt to your current balance or don’t want to carry debt at all but still want to earn rewards, consider using your credit card as if it was a debit card.

An app called Debitize can help by linking your checking account to your credit card and debiting the amount you charge each day you use your card. Debitize also offers a paid service called Credit Optimizer that helps you improve your credit utilization ratio by paying down your credit card balance just before your bank reports how much you charged.

See related: Poll: You can get better credit card terms just by askingMultiple monthly card payments can boost credit scores, CreditCards.com’s debt payoff calculator

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