“Charge it” has once again taken hold as the national consumer rallying cry.

The $747 billion in unpaid credit card balances through the third quarter of 2016 is 10 percent higher than it was just four years ago and is nearing the record levels that preceded the financial crisis.

According to an analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 35 percent of cardholders with high credit scores had balances of between $5,000 and $15,000 in the third quarter of 2016, and almost one in five had at least $15,000 in credit card debt.

“It’s great that consumer confidence is high, but spending outside of your means is never wise,” says Jill Gonzalez, a credit analyst at consumer finance website WalletHub.

Especially right now. The interest rate for most credit cards is pegged to short-term indexes that tend to move in sync with the Federal Reserve’s Federal Funds rate. WalletHub estimates that consumers will pay an additional $1.4 billion in credit card interest payments based on the rise in interest rates that followed the December hike in the Fed Funds rate. The average interest rate is now around 13 percent for consumers with FICO credit scores of at least 750 and more than 18 percent if your score is between 700 and 750, according to WalletHub.

And interest costs are likely to continue to rise in 2017, because the Federal Reserve has signaled that it may hike its target rate three times this year.

That should be plenty of motivation to get your credit card balances paid off (or at least paid down) sooner rather than later. 

Strike a Great Balance Transfer Deal

Experian, a consumer data and reporting firm, reports that the first quarter is the peak time of year that consumers look to move their high-rate credit card debt to a better deal, perhaps due, in part, to holiday overspending. The good news is that if you have a credit score in the 700s, you may be able to snag an attractive credit card balance transfer deal right now.

The Chase Slate Visa Card is a balance transfer credit card that lets qualified borrowers transfer as much as $15,000 to their card and pay no interest for 15 months. You get all that without having to pay the 3 percent transfer fee that most cards levy.

Looking for a longer zero-rate deal? The Citi Simplicity MasterCard balance transfer credit card charges zero interest on transferred balances for up to 21 months, though you will be hit with a 3 percent transfer fee. 

“Those great deals aren’t going to last forever. Right now consumers have a lot of opportunity given the competition among card issuers,” Gonzalez says.

When the economy starts to cool a bit, the expectation is that credit card issuers will pare back their offers, possibly shortening the initial number of months they charge no interest on transferred balances, or tightening the qualifying rules for the best deals.

If you have a lot of credit card debt, figuring out which balance transfer credit card to move to may not seem obvious.

“It’s tempting to transfer a few small balances just to have the simplicity of consolidating, and then being able to pay off those debts, but you will save the most money by transferring the highest rate debt and getting it paid off,” says credit expert Gerri Detweiler, head of marketing education at nav.com.

If you can nab a zero-rate transfer deal, the challenge is to actually get the balance paid off before the rate adjusts. That means doubling down on living a bit more within your means and scouring your budget for extra money you can put toward your credit card debt. 

A part-time gig or consulting work can be a temporary income boost to get ahead on your payback. And be sure to make every payment on time. One slip up and you may lose your zero rate.

Moreover, timely payments have a big impact on your credit score. Though the goal is to get your debt paid off during the zero-rate period, if you fall short of that, a higher score can mean paying a lower rate down the line.

If you can’t transfer all of your debt to a zero-rate card, ask your existing card issuers for a better rate.

“Don’t lead with ‘I can’t afford these payments,’” cautions Detweiler. That sets off alarm bells that can lead to your account being frozen or closed.

“Convey that you are trying to do better on getting your balances paid off and are considering moving your balance to a lower-rate card,” Detweiler suggests.