Which Credit Card Should I Pay Off First?

Which credit card to pay off first

If you have several credit cards with balances, it can be hard knowing which card to pay off first. Each one has different features, fees, and APRs.

If you’re not sure how to approach debt repayment, you might worry about making a decision. But the longer you wait to get started, the more you’re liable to pay in interest payments.

Follow this simple guide to determine which credit card to pay off first and learn about two popular debt repayment strategies.

Credit card features to consider

To help you decide which card you need to pay off first, write down the APR, balance, and annual fee of each credit card. These are important parts of your credit cards that will affect your decision.


A credit card’s APR is its annual percentage rate. In other words, it’s the yearly cost of holding debt on the card. By mid-April 2017, the average credit card APR was 15.74%, reported CreditCards.com.

Depending on the types of credit cards you have and your credit score, your APRs could be higher. If you’re not sure what your APRs are, check your most recent statements.


Once you have considered your APRs, consider each card’s balance. Even if the card has a low balance, a high APR can mean you’re paying a lot in interest every month.

Annual fee

If you have credit cards that charge annual fees, you’ll want to know when those fees become due. Also, take stock of each card’s features and make sure that you’re getting enough value out of them to justify the annual fee. If not, you’ll want to consider closing the card once it’s paid off.

Credit card features you can ignore

Credit cards aren’t all interest rates and fees. Some come with extra features that make using the card worth having. But those perks shouldn’t come into play when you’re paying off debt.


Rewards credit cards tend to come with higher APRs, according to CreditCards.com. Unless you have a cash-back credit card, you likely won’t be able to use your rewards to help pay off your debt.

Keep in mind: If your rewards credit card has a high APR and you carry a balance on it, you might be neutralizing the benefits of the rewards. Once you’ve paid off the card, you’ll want to be sure to pay it off in full each month to keep the full value of your rewards.

Other perks

Some credit cards offer extra perks like elite status, free checked bags when you fly, and presale tickets for events. You can continue to use these while paying down debt, but they shouldn’t be a factor in which credit cards to pay off first.

Deciding which credit card to pay off first

Now that you have gathered your credit card information, review each card’s APR, balance, and applicable fees.

If you have an annual fee card and plan to cancel it, check when the next fee posts to your account. You might want to focus on paying off that card over the others if the fee becomes due within the next few months.

If you have no annual fee cards or don’t plan on canceling any, your next step will be to decide on a debt repayment method to use.

There are two main debt payoff methods when you have multiple accounts: the debt snowball and the debt avalanche. The right one for you depends on your motivation level and goals.

Debt avalanche

With the debt avalanche method, you focus on the card with the highest APR first. When you pay off that card, you’ll take the money you were putting toward it and use it to pay off the card with the next-highest APR.

Experts recommend this repayment strategy to reduce your interest payments.

Debt snowball

In contrast to the debt avalanche method, the debt snowball focuses on the lowest balance first. Once you pay off a balance, you move onto the next debt.

The debt snowball method is a great way to stay motivated when repaying debt. Each balance you pay off is a small win toward financial freedom.

Get started on paying off your debt

Whether you’re up to your eyeballs in credit card debt or have a few small balances, it’s essential to have a payoff strategy.

Knowing which credit card to pay off first is an essential step. Create a spreadsheet that lists out your credit card balances, interest rates, and annual fees.

Then, decide whether you want to try the debt snowball or debt avalanche method. If you end up not liking a payoff method, you can always switch to the other.

As you repay your debt, look for ways to earn extra cash or save. That way, you can put more money toward the debt you are focusing. You can also consider a credit card balance transfer as a way to lower your interest payments.

As you work through these steps, you’ll have an easy answer to the question, “Which credit card should I pay off first?” You’ll also be on your way to becoming debt free.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 6 lenders of 2018!
LenderRates (APR)Eligible Degrees 
Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
2.58% - 7.25%Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit SoFi
2.99% - 6.99%Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Laurel Road
2.57% - 6.32%Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Earnest
2.57% - 7.25%Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit CommonBond
2.56% - 7.82%Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Lendkey
3.11% - 8.46%Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Citizens
Advertiser Disclosure

Student Loan Hero Advertiser Disclosure

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print, understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.