The holidays may be over, but for many Americans the credit card debt remains.

Preholiday polls showed that the average shopper planned to spend more than $900 on gifts, up from the $785 forecast in 2016. For those who charged purchases and are now trying to pay down the balance, here are a few tips to reach the goal faster:

Look for a lower interest rate. Offers to transfer balances to a new card in exchange for a 0 percent interest rate abound, but make sure to crunch the numbers, says Bill Hardekopf, CEO of, a site that tracks card offers.

Check your current rate and figure out how much you’ll spend on interest over the next 12 or 24 months. Then compare that amount to the costs of a balance-transfer card, many of which charge an up-front fee of 3 percent or more of your balance.

It’s also important to look at how long the 0 percent offer lasts and what rate you’ll pay after, keeping in mind that when an offer says “rates as low as …” you might qualify for the best deal only if you have excellent credit.

Before you switch, it’s also worth a call to your current company to see whether it will lower your rate to keep you as a customer. If you go with a balance-transfer deal, make sure to always pay your credit card bill on time because being late often terminates the 0 percent deal.

“Anything you thought you were going to save will be shot,” Hardekopf says.

Strategize about paying off multiple debts. Most Americans have more than one credit card, which leads to the question: How should you divvy up payments?

Economists say the rational thing to do is pay off credit card debt with the highest interest rate first. But people aren’t always motivated by the most rational strategy. 

“A lot of people struggle to get motivated to pay down their credit card debts, and they feel more motivated by a sense of progress,” says David Gal, professor of marketing at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

His research, with Blake McShane of Northwestern University, shows that for some people, paying off the smallest debts first may be a better strategy because zeroing out a balance provides a feeling of accomplishment—which keeps people dedicated to the task.

That said, if willpower isn’t a problem for you, paying off the highest-rate debts in full first is a good idea because it saves the most money. Whatever your approach, don’t forget to always make the minimum required payment on each card. 

Pare your budget. Cutting back on new spending to put more money toward debt repayment is easier said than done. A good first step is to make a detailed monthly budget, as painful as it may sound, because seeing what you spend can help identify places to trim.

Recent decades have seen the popularization of budgets that emphasize cutting out small but frivolous expenses—the quintessential example being one’s daily latte. Yet many financial planners stress that to really make a dent, you also have to go after big-ticket items (PDF) such as housing and transportation. Eating out less is great, but so is shopping for cheaper car insurance and unplugging appliances (especially older ones) to save on your utility bill.

Send in payments throughout the month. Many people don’t think about the fact that credit card companies will take more than one payment a month, says’s Hardekopf. Because interest is calculated from the account’s average daily balance, you’ll wind up paying less over time if you send in money when you have it rather than waiting until you receive a bill. This strategy can work well in combination with spending cuts.

“If you skip a $25 dinner out to stay at home and eat PB&J, then immediately go online and pay off $25 on your credit card,” Hardekopf says. “That might not be a big savings in the first month, but over time you’re going to pay down debt faster.”

Earn some extra cash. Just focusing on expenses, though, can be like trying to lose weight with “all diet and no exercise,” says Diane Mulcahy, adjunct professor at Babson College. In her new book, “The Gig Economy,” she explains how people can make the most of new part-time work arrangements to meet their financial goals, including paying down debt.

There’s Airbnb, Lyft, and Uber, of course, but even if you aren’t up for letting strangers into your personal space, sites such as LinkedIn ProFinder and Upwork (and FlexJobs and Guru and many more industry-specific ones) can help find freelance jobs. For making cash doing chores and running errands, try InstacartPostmates, and  TaskRabbit.

Just know that landing gigs online can be competitive, Mulcahy says, so don’t forget about tapping your own social networks and looking locally.