Q: I’m struggling to pay down my credit card debt and I’m wondering if it’s a good idea to use my home’s equity to pay it off. Maybe then I could make some real progress. Should I take out a HELOC to pay off my credit card debt?
A: Your home’s equity can be a versatile financial tool, but using it to pay off your credit card debt can potentially be risky. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of using a HELOC to pay off credit card debt so you can make an informed decision about this financial move.
Pros of using a HELOC to pay off credit card debt
Under specific circumstances, it can be a good idea to use a Home Equity Line of Credit to pay off consumer debt.
Here are some of the pros of using a HELOC to pay off credit card debt:
- Favorable interest rates. Interest rates on HELOCs tend to be lower than interest rates on most credit cards. Moving the debt to a HELOC can potentially save you thousands in interest payments.
- Potential tax benefits. The interest payments on a HELOC can be tax-deductible if the funds are used to increase the value of the home. You may be able to pay off your credit card debt, improve your home and then enjoy the tax benefits of a HELOC. Be sure to consult with a tax professional about this before considering this factor.
- Streamlined monthly payments. When you consolidate your credit card debt to a single loan, it’s easier to keep on top of the monthly payments.
Cons of using a HELOC to pay off credit card debt
Unfortunately, using a HELOC to pay off debt has significant possible disadvantages as well.
Here are some of the cons of using a HELOC to pay off credit card debt:
- It uses your home as collateral. A HELOC is a line of credit taken out against your home’s value. This means if you default on the payments, you risk losing your home.
- You can end up upside-down on your home loan. If your home’s value drops at some point in the HELOC’s term, you can end up owing more on your home than it’s actually worth.
- You may end up in even more debt. If you don’t change your financial habits, transferring your debt to a HELOC can land you right back in deep debt. Without solving the underlying issue, such as insufficient income or the inability to control your spending, you can end up using your new line of credit (or even the credit cards you just paid off) to overspend and ultimately have more debt than when you started.
- Fluctuating interest rates. While a HELOC’s APR may initially be lower than a typical credit card’s APR, its rates are generally variable and subject to fluctuations in the market. The APR can rise over time, increasing your monthly payment amount and making budgeting and affordability challenging.
- Extended repayment terms. HELOCs can have repayment terms of 10 years or longer. This means that transferring credit card debt to a HELOC is not a quick fix for your debt.
Before using a HELOC to pay off credit card debt
If you decide to go ahead and take out a HELOC to pay off your credit card debt, first consider these factors:
- Your debt repayment strategy. Evaluate your spending habits and assess whether a HELOC will help you address the underlying causes of your credit card debt. Develop a realistic debt repayment strategy that includes a budget, emergency fund and a plan to avoid incurring additional debt in the future.
- Financial stability. Examine your overall financial situation, including income stability, employment prospects and future financial goals. Before opening a HELOC, you need complete confidence in your ability to make timely payments while maintaining your other financial obligations.
- Loan terms and fees. Be sure to thoroughly research and compare HELOC offerings from different financial institutions. Pay close attention to interest rates, repayment terms, rate adjustments, fees and any potential penalties.
Taking out a HELOC to pay off credit card debt is generally not recommended, but it can be a viable option under specific circumstances. Use this guideline to make an informed decision about this financial move.