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More Canadians dealing with mounting credit card debt

By Brad Perry Nov 14, 2023 | 6:30 AM

Credit counsellors are seeing more people turning to credit cards to help manage rising living costs.

A recent Transunion report found the average Canadian credit card balance now stands at $4,000.

The increased debt levels and rising interest rates have put an additional strain on already stressed consumers.

Susan Eisner, CEO of SolveYourDebts.com, said they are hearing from more people who need help with out-of-control credit card debt.

“Credit cards aren’t bad, but paying that balance off every month and being able to pay them is really critical,” Eisner said in an interview.

Eisner said it is important for consumers to be mindful about what expenses they are putting on their credit cards.

You should avoid charging something if you will not be able to pay off the balance at the end of the month, she said.

“The first step is a budget. If people aren’t budgeting and they don’t know what they can afford and are just using the credit card randomly without having a plan, that’s when they really get in trouble,” said Eisner.

Canadians who are faced with mounting credit card debt do have options in order to get it under control, she said.

Eisner said if you have multiple credit cards, choose one to pay off first and make the minimum payment on the rest.

“Ideally, choose the one with the highest interest rate. By prioritizing that and being able to pay it down, you’ll save more money in the long run if you’re paying those higher interest rates first,” she said.

Eisner said one option people often do not consider is trying to get a lower interest rate on their card.

A phone call to your credit card company is sometimes enough to have your interest rate lowered, she said.

You can also transfer your balance to a credit card that offers a zero per cent introductory interest rate, but Eisner said you should use caution with this approach.

She said you should make sure to pay off what you owe within the introductory window, otherwise, the interest rate may end up being higher than the company you transferred from.

Eisner said you will also need to avoid swiping this new card because low interest may not apply to new balances or purchases. In addition, you may be charged a balance transfer fee of three to four per cent of the total amount.

“Do your research when considering this option to determine if it will actually save you money, and be sure to close down your previous account so that you’re not tempted to use both,” she said.

Finally, Eisner recommends trying to make at least two minimum payments every month in order to reduce your average daily balance and the interest it accumulates.

If you need help with your debt, Eisner said you should consider reaching out to a professional for help.