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Should You Use an Installment Loan to Pay Off Your Credit Cards?

Written by
Alex Huntsberger
Alex Huntsberger is a personal finance writer who covered online lending, credit scores, and employment for OppU. His work has been cited by, Business Insider, and The Motley Fool.
Read time: 5 min
Updated on January 25, 2024
young woman holding money and a credit card asking should you use an installment loan to pay off your credit cards?
Consolidating all of your credit card debt into a single installment loan will likely save you money, but it will probably mean larger monthly payments.

Spending yourself into credit card debt is fairly simple; you spend more money on credit cards than you currently have in the bank and repeat until you are maxed out. Getting yourself out of credit card debt, on the other hand, is complicated. There are many options, and none of them are easy.

One of the ways you could consider to pay off your debt is to consolidate all your credit cards into a single debt: a personal installment loan. Then you use that loan to pay off all your credit cards, leaving you with only one easy payment to make each month. Is this the best method for you? Read on to find out.

How installment loans work.

When you take out a personal loan, it will likely be structured as an installment loan. This means you borrow a single lump sum of money and repay the loan in a series of fixed, regular payments that include both principal and interest.

The interest rate on your personal loan could vary depending on your credit score. The higher your score, the more creditworthy you will be to a potential lender and the less interest they may charge you. Conversely, the lower your score, the riskier you will seem and the more interest they may charge you.

Interest on installment loans is accrued over time; the longer a loan is outstanding, the more interest it will accrue. However, interest will accrue based on the remaining principal, so the actual amount of money you accrue in interest will reduce over time.

Lastly, installment loans are amortizing, which means that every payment you make goes towards both the principal and the interest. The amount that goes towards each is determined by the loan’s amortization schedule, rest assured that every on-time payment you make will bring you one step closer to decreasing your debt.

Will the loan save you money?

Yes, paying off your credit cards with an installment loan will most likely save you money in the long run.

Here’s why: The standard term for a personal installment loan is anywhere between one and seven years. No matter how long the loan’s repayment term is, odds are it would be shorter than the length of time it takes to pay off your credit cards by making only the minimum payments.

The monthly minimums for credit cards are often very small, with each payment typically accounting for one to three percent of the amount owed. When interest rates are factored in, it could take years to pay off those cards.

Remember, the longer a loan or credit card is outstanding, the more the interest. All things being equal, a shorter repayment option will always be the one that saves you money overall.

What’s the interest rate?

Interest rates for both personal loans and credit cards will depend on your credit score. If you have good credit, you will probably be able to qualify for personal loans with a reasonable interest rate.

Furthermore, the interest rates for personal loans are generally lower than the interest rates for credit cards. Even if the rate is higher than you might prefer, it may probably be lower than the rate on your credit card.

However, racking up excess credit card debt could lower your credit score, as the amount of debt you owe is the second most important factor in your credit score. A low credit score could decrease the likelihood of finding an online loan or a loan from brick-and-mortar lender with a great rate.

It’s a Catch-22 scenario: You want to find a low-cost personal loan to pay down your credit card debt, but you need to pay down your credit card debt in order to qualify for the low-cost personal loan.

What are your monthly payments?

The monthly minimum payments for credit cards are generally small. It's a double-edged sword; small payments make it much harder to get out of debt but they are fairly affordable, especially relative to the amount of debt you owe in total.

This is where we arrive at the biggest issue with consolidating your debt through a personal installment loan: even with a lower interest rate, shorter repayment terms almost guarantee larger monthly payments than the monthly minimums on your credit cards.

If you’re struggling to afford your monthly minimum payments, this could make consolidation a non-starter for you. Saving money in the long run is great, but you still have to be able to afford your payments now.

Here is the flipside: Any debt repayment plan will involve paying more each month than your current monthly minimums. Don’t let the larger payments discourage you: trim your budget, consider picking up a second job or side hustle, to meet your financial obligations..

What are other methods of debt repayment?

Consolidating your credit cards into a personal installment loan is a viable method of debt repayment, especially if you have a decent credit score, however, it’s not the only method.

The two most popular debt repayment methods are the Debt Snowball and the Debt Avalanche. Both involve putting all of your extra debt repayment funds towards one debt at a time rather than spreading them around evenly. The difference comes in how they prioritize which debts to pay off first.

With the Debt Snowball, you pay off your debt with the lowest balance first, working your way up to the debt with the largest balance. This can cost you a little more money in the end, but it prioritizes early victories encouraging you to keep going.

The Debt Avalanche, on the other hand, focuses on the numbers. You prioritize your debts by interest rate, paying off the highest-rate debt first and then working your way down to the debt with the lowest rate. This saves you money compared to the Debt Snowball, but it could leave you waiting a while before you notch your first debt pay-off victory.

Lastly, you could transfer your credit card balances onto other cards using a zero percent APR offer. This takes advantage of an interest-free grace period but carries the sizable risk of leaving you with more credit card debt than when you started.

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