Basics: It’s smart to pay off a car loan as quickly as possible because cars depreciate so rapidly.
Action: Assuming you can’t kill off your debt at once, go to Bankrate.com to learn about interest rates in your area. If you suspect that you can get a lower rate than what you have, contact your bank or credit union.
Critical Info: There’s a potential downside. Switching to a lower-rate loan often extends the term from 24 or 36 months to 72 months. So you have a lower monthly but are potentially paying more over the life of the loan. Do the math before you sign. (Most bank sites have auto-loan refinancing calculators.)
Credit Card Debt
Basics: Those “0% APR balance transfer” offers can save you a lot of money, if you’re disciplined. But know this: The 0 percent typically applies only to the balance you transfer, not to new purchases. So don’t shop with the card at all. Just transfer your debt and pay it off fast. After the no-interest period ends (often 15 months), your balance will be hit with the card’s regular rate—which could be over 23 percent! No matter what, make payments on time or you could lose the introductory rate and owe a bundle.
Action: Go to NerdWallet.com to compare 0 percent offers from Chase, American Express, Discover, and others.
Critical Info: Some experts expect the Federal Reserve System to raise interest rates by the end of the year, so this might be a good time to consolidate credit-card debt.
Basics: Chances are your loans have a low interest rate, so consolidating is more about the convenience of one monthly bill than about saving money.
Critical Info: Credit scores count. If yours is below 700, you may have a hard time refinancing.
- Robert Harrow, credit-card expert at ValuePenguin.com, a financial research and analysis site.
- David Klein, CEO and cofounder of CommonBond, an online student lending platform.
- Bruce McClary, spokesman for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, in Washington, D.C.