how long to pay off credit card debt


Credit card debt is like Steve Urkel– an obnoxious neighbor that won’t go away, unless you are intentional with your efforts to get rid of it. Do you have a credit card debt balance that seems to never go away? If so, you’re in good company! About half of all adult Americans also carry credit card debt and a quarter of those people added to their credit card debt balances as a direct result of the pandemic. With all that heavy debt being carried, you may wonder how long it takes the average person to pay off credit card debt. Let’s find out! 

According to CNBC, it takes the average American about 13 months to pay off credit card debt with an average balance of about $8,200.

Unlike other debt such as mortgages or student loans, making the minimum payment on your credit card debt won’t get you very far in paying it off. Banks typically set your minimum payments at a fixed rate (usually $25) or at 1 to 2% interest of your balance– whichever is greater. That means that you are making essentially no progress when you make the minimum payment because you’ll likely accrue interest at a rate of 15% or higher. 

The longer you have an existing balance on your credit card, the more money you will pay in interest and the longer it will take to pay off.

Whether you are below, above, or average, will largely be determined by external factors. In fact, there are many factors at play when it comes to how quickly you can ditch your credit card debt balance. 

Factors that could impact how quickly you can pay off credit card debt:


One of the most impactful factors in determining whether you will be above average when it comes to paying off credit card debt, is income. If you don’t have enough money to make extra payments during the month, you’ll obviously pay off your credit card debt slower. And the slower you pay off the balance means the more you’ll pay. So focusing on increasing your income is a great way to accelerate your credit card debt payoff and come in above average when it comes to paying it off! [Related: How to Earn Money Without a Job]

Your interest rate. 

Another factor that will impact how quickly you can pay off your credit card debt is your interest rate. Do you actually know the interest rate on your credit card? If so– you are in an elite club. Only 39% of Americans actually know this number. The higher your interest rate, the longer it will take you to pay off debt. 

Family size.

Another impactful factor is your family size. Obviously, the more people in your family, the more expenses you will likely have. You can expect a higher grocery bill, paying more in rent or a mortgage for more space, paying for kids activities like soccer, to name a few. While these increased expenses exist, they aren’t necessarily inevitable. With some careful planning, for example, you can lower your grocery bill. By carefully utilizing space or considering moving to a lower cost of living area, you can lower your mortgage/rent payment. 

Location and cost of living. 

Location and cost of living are going to impact whether you’ll be above average when it comes to paying off your credit card debt. If you live in a big city where the cost of living is high, it is obviously going to slow your progress in your journey paying off debt. That said, there are things you can do to mitigate this factor, such as reducing expenses like going out to eat. 

Unnecessary expenses. 

Speaking of expenses, if you have lots of unnecessary expenses it’s certainly going to impact how quickly you’ll pay off you credit card balance. 

Other debt. 

Other debt you carry, such as student loans, personal loans, auto loans, mortgage debt, etc. may also impact your ability to pay off credit card debt quickly because your money will have to stretch further to meet all of your minimum payments. 

You can beat the average debt pay off of credit card debt by doing these things:

That said, despite these factors, you can be above averag paying off credit card debt by doing certain things, like

Reducing expenses. 

One thing you can do to help quickly pay off your credit card debt is to reduce any unnecessary expenses. Of course in order to reduce your expenses, you’ll need to know what your expenses are. You can track your expenses with our free guide here. Making sacrifices in your spending will pay you dividends (literally) in the interest you’ll be saving on your debt. So, cut anything out of your spending that you don’t need for now. You can always add expenses back into your budget once you have paid off debt and have better control over your spending and budget. It will be worth it! 

Paying off your credit card balance with a balance transfer or a personal loan. 

Use a credit card balance transfer or a personal loan to pay off the balance on your credit card debt. 

A balance transfer is where you’ll take on a new credit card and simply transfer over the balance to the new card, with a 0% interest rate that will last for a period of time (typically 18 months or so). This can save you tons of money in the interest that is currently accruing on your card. Watch out though, because after that interest free period, you can get hit with an even higher interest rate. 

Another option is to take on a personal loan to pay off the balance of your credit card debt. I personally like this option better because it does not involve opening a new credit card (because ahem, credit card debt is what got you into this trouble in the first place). Rather than having yet another credit card line open, you’ll consolidate all of your credit card debt into this personal loan with a much lower interest rate (7% or lower). You also won’t have to worry about closing other credit cards which can harm your credit score. You can compare multiple interest rates from multiple lenders here (with no impact to your credit score btw). 

Stop using your credit card. 

One very important thing you should do to help you be above average when it comes to paying off your credit cards, is to STOP spending on them! This can be a little tricky at first if you are used to doing practically all of your spending on a credit card. I don’t think you have to stop using credit cards forever, but while you are working on getting out of credit card debt, you shouldn’t accrue more credit card debt. That’s the opposite of what you should be doing. Instead, swap out your credit card for your debit card or cash so that you know you’ll have the money in the bank when you pay your bills and make purchases. 

Budget by paycheck.

Another thing that will help you pay off your credit card debt balance faster is budgeting by each paycheck. I don’t know about you but my spending is not the exact same every single month. Some months I need to buy a plane ticket or pay a doctor’s bill, though I certainly don’t do those activities each month. Creating a budget and adjusting it every single time you get a pay check will help you stay on track to be above average when it comes to paying off credit card debt. 

Stick to your budget.

Once you’ve established a good budget, the hard part is sticking to it. But that’s the part that will actually help you make progress on your debt payoff. 

Get motivated. 

One of the hardest parts about paying off credit card debt is staying motivated to get it done. That’s why we created the Paidback app. It’s purely a debt motivational tool where you can track your debt, connect with other like minded people who are also busy paying off debt, and use our debt calculators to see just how quickly you can become debt free. You can download Paidback here.

If you want to beat the average of paying off credit card debt in 13 months, you can do it! While it takes the average person 13 months to pay off credit card debt, it doesn’t have to take you that long. By controlling some of the factors in your life and using these tips, you’ll be able to pay off credit card debt well above average. 

Ready to get started? Download our free Debt Payoff Starter Kit. It will equip you with all the tools you need to kick your credit card debt to the curb fast. 

average person to pay off credit card debt

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