Here’s who’s most likely to go into debt over the holidays – and how they can reduce those balances

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It’s no secret the holiday season brings on more financial stress for many consumers.

And one group — millennials — are the most susceptible to taking on more debt to keep up, according to a new survey from CreditCards.com.

The survey found that more than half of the people in that generation — 52% — who are credit card holders said they are open to taking on more debt during the holidays. That’s compared with 45% of all cardholders who are willing to take on holiday-related credit card debt this season.

The online survey of 2,571 adults was conducted in October. Millennials are defined as individuals between the ages of 23 and 38.

Millennials are most likely getting squeezed this holiday season because they are the generation most likely to have young kids, said Ted Rossman, industry analyst at CreditCards.com.

What’s more, those younger adults often spend money to visit baby boomer parents who host the holidays, Rossman said.

“Even for millennials that don’t have kids, there’s also this element of the spillover effect from student loan debt,” Rossman said.

In comparison, 38% of members of Generation X and 28% of baby boomers think racking up credit card debt this holiday season is OK.

Rossman also said those numbers sound low, particularly because many people are already carrying debt into the holidays. About 41% of adults who have a credit card are in debt, according to CreditCard.com’s research.

More than half of those people — 56% — have been in debt for at least a year, while more than a third — 37% — have been carrying those balances for two years.

“Where does Christmas 2017 or Christmas 2018 really begin and end?” Rossman said. “If you’ve been in debt for that long, it’s kind of hard to separate what was holiday and what was not.”

There are some things you can do to start to get out from under the weight of those bills.

Consider a 0% transfer card

There are still offers out there where you can transfer your debt to a 0% interest credit card.

That interest rate can last as long as 21 months. And you don’t necessarily have to have a stellar credit score to qualify. If your score is 670 or better, you should be able to take advantage of one of these offers, Rossman said. The average nationwide credit score is about 705.

You may also want to look for a card that does not have a transfer fee, which can be as much as 3% to 5%. Cards including the Chase Slate, BankAmericard and Amex EveryDay offer this feature, according to Rossman.

You should act sooner rather than later if you want to take advantage of such an offer, Rossman said. That’s because after three interest rate cuts by the Federal Reserve, credit card companies may not be as generous with these plans as they look to make up revenue in other areas.

That could result in higher transfer fees or shorter time periods for the 0% offers, he said.

Put your rewards to use

Often, credit card holders are not aware of just how many points or rewards they’ve already accumulated.

A conservative estimate found that cardholders typically have the equivalent of about $340 in unused airline miles, $230 in hotel points and $160 in credit card points, according to Rossman’s research.

“Take stock of what you may already have and, where appropriate, seek to earn more rewards on your holiday shopping,” Rossman said. “But more than anything, take advantage of what you’ve already got.”

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When it comes to rewards, the best deals are often on travel, followed by cash back or gift cards, Rossman said.

One area that’s often not the best deal: merchandise, where you can end up spending more money on products than you would if you bought them on your own, Rossman said.

Think about a side hustle

There are an abundant number of jobs available these days given the low unemployment rate, particularly during the holidays.

“Take advantage of that robust job market,” Rossman said. “Use that extra money to help fund your holiday or pay down your debt.”

You may also want to consider selling things you already own and are not using.

“Turn some of those long forgotten possessions into some actual cash,” Rossman said.

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