Spending down debt: Use the round robin plan

This repost is part of our series on strategies you can adopt to free yourself from burdensome debt.

Are you thinking about buying a home, but you need to improve your credit score in order to get the best interest rate? Paying down debt using the round robin strategy can get you there the fastest. People with the best credit score only use 10% to 20% of their available credit, so the faster you can pay down your debt on each card, the better your credit score will be. (If you're looking to minimize your interest and a quick improvement in credit score doesn't matter, then use the snowball effect strategy instead.)

With this strategy you first focus on paying down all your credit cards to a debt level of about 30% of your available credit. For example, if you have a credit line of $3,000, to be at 30% utilization the maximum balance you should have on that card is $900. When you get all your cards paid down to 30% utilization, then start working on getting them down to 20%. Once they are all at 20% utilization then start paying them down to 10%. Your final round robin stage will be to pay off the cards completely. When you reach the 10% goal your credit score should be up by at least 30 points and could be up by as much as 70 points. If you've had a history of late payments and are now paying your credit cards on time, your credit score could improve by as much as 40 points.

Will that make a big difference when applying for a mortgage? People with a credit score of 730 or higher get the best interest rate offers. As long as your credit score is above 730 there's no reason to worry. Even if you push that score higher you won't likely get a better offer. But if your credit score is below 675 you will pay almost 2% more interest on a mortgage loan, which will mean thousands of dollars more in interest over the life of that loan. If your credit score is below 620, expect to pay 3% to 4% more interest on that mortgage loan. So taking the time to get your score up using the round robin strategy could make a huge difference in the loan packages you'll be offered.