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I have 3 credit cards which I am slowly paying them off.

Card#   Balance    Monthly  Interest   Months to pay of   Minimum 
                   Payment             at current rate    Payment
1       $15,904    $453       2%            35            $453 
2       $11,555    $652       2%            18            $360 
3       $8,704     $260       0%            24            $260 

Facts:

  • The interest rates are locked in and cannot change, so at least I don't have to worry about that.
  • The monthly payments that I am sending in is the most I can pay.
  • Other than redirecting money going to card #2, there isn't a whole lot of space to play with, as cards #1 and #3 are receving the minimum payment.

How do I calculate the most optimal way to pay off all cards in a shortest time?

  • You have a 0% credit card? – DJClayworth Mar 16 '11 at 20:27
  • @DJClayworth Several years ago I had medical issues. I called Chase, told them I could not pay their rate, explained my predicament and made it clear that it was either a really low rate or bankrupsy for me. IIRC, they asked for a medical note (or maybe not, it was a long time ago) and then gave me a 0% for 5 years. I am in year 2 or 3 now. Several months later I consolidated all my cards via a credit counseling agency and they negotiated with other creditors, so this is what I ended up with. – NeedAdvice Mar 16 '11 at 21:08
  • @NeedAdvice it's been about 24 months since you posted this question, so assuming nothing changed you'd be approaching completely paid off. Can you give us an update on how the payoff went? – nohat Mar 13 '14 at 3:20
  • 3
    @nohat Yes, so I actually paid it off a lot sooner than my math here dictated. The whole "credit card debt" idea just weighed heavily on my mind and I put in all kinds of effort to pay it off. First I tacked card #2 - if I had an extra dollar, I'd use it to reduce the balance. Then I caught 2 lucky breaks. 1 - the judge reduced child support since the kids were living with me. 2 - I got a $20k bonus at work out of the blue. I put all the new found cash towards getting rid of debt. I was done with everything in little over 12 months. – NeedAdvice Mar 14 '14 at 4:31
  • Here is an idea: Consider your house is on fire. Pay them off ASAP. No more than 1 year. – Pete B. Aug 22 '16 at 19:26
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I could be mistaken, but since card #1 and card #2 have the same interest rate, it doesn't matter which one you pay more towards, both in terms of time it will take you to pay it down and how much interest you pay. Basically you'll be paying $1105 each month towards a total debt of $27,459 at 2%, irrespective of how you divide the payments up over the cards (just make sure you observe minimum payment requirements).

The situation would be different if they had different interest rates or if the low rate on one of them would expire quicker than on the other one.

11

The optimal way to pay off all cards in the least amount of time is a waterfall approach, with the most money going to the account with the highest interest rate, or in the event of a tie, the lowest balance. Then when that account is paid off, go to the next one. There's a bit of wiggle room if one is tax deductible, but in this case, there shouldn't be.

So, what you should do is pay off card 2, then 1, then 3, using the waterfall scheme. You have correctly identified that card 2 will be paid off in 18 months. Figure out what the balance will be on Card 1 at that time, and how long the new payment of $1105 will take to get it paid off. Then figure out how long it'll take to pay off card 3 with $1365.

Without crunching the numbers myself, I'm guessing you'll be debt free in about 26 months or so, that card 3 will be paid off before you are done with Card 1. So what you'd do in that case is pay off card 1 using the combined total payment.

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