If you were to check a Canadian adult’s wallet, chances are there will be at least one credit card tucked away.
According to Stats Canada, 89 per cent of Canadians over the age of 18 had at least one credit card as of 2014. But the average Canadian had 2.2 credit cards as of 2015, with 48 per cent carrying ones with annual fees and 73 per cent carrying ones without annual fees.
With such easy access to credit cards, it’s important to remember that having a credit card doesn’t mean it’s free cash to spend as you please. But for 46 per cent of Canadian households in 2014, they carried credit card debt and it made up 5.4 per cent of total household debt as of December 2014.
Carrying credit card debt is never ideal, as each month minimum payments are due. These minimum payments are determined by the level of interest a person’s credit card carries against the amount of credit owing on its balance. Paying off the balance of the credit card each month is what a person should strive for, as they won’t have to pay any interest owing.
But when credit card debt gets out of hand there is relief for Canadians. According to the Credit Counselling Society of Canada, you can negotiate credit card debt relief yourself or have a debt/credit counsellor do it for you.
Negotiating credit card debt relief isn’t going to end in the credit card company reducing your overall debt. You can speak with them to lower their interest rates so that you if you are carrying a balance you end up paying less interest and less of a minimum payment so that more will go towards the overall balance owing each time. According to the Credit Counselling Society of Canada, the best time to negotiate the interest rate on your credit card(s) is when you are up to date on all monthly payments, so to show the credit card company you have the history of making the necessary payments on time.
But there are other options if the credit card debt is just too high and impossible to eventually pay back in full. There are debt management programs or debt repayment plans, where a credit counselling organization will consolidate your debts into one manageable monthly payment. This allows a person to understand they will have a payment coming out of their account of the same amount and time each month. A credit counsellor will help a person establish a realistic re-payment amount that helps fit their budget each month so they will eventually pay off the unsecured debt in full.
Another option exists for Albertans mired in credit card debt. As a resident of Alberta (and Nova Scotia) they may qualify for an Orderly Payment of Debt (OPD) program, where a person will pay back the total amount of unsecured debt typically over a period of three years. The interest rate is also usually set at 5 per cent, allowing people to pay back the debt without risking their assets. It’s important to note that a person’s creditors must agree to the OPD program and the courts must approve it.
Although there are plenty of options to pay back credit card debt, the simplest solution to this problem is to ensure debt doesn’t pile up in the first place. By paying off purchases on a credit card as soon