Microsoft Excel can be a powerful tool for managing your finances, including figuring out how much to pay on your credit cards each month to pay them off by a certain date. You can find ready-made templates available online to help calculate the ideal payment schedule and figure out what you'll ultimately pay in interest, or you can build your own with a few simple formulas. If you don't use Excel but prefer another spreadsheet program, you can find or build comparable tools.
Using Excel Templates
There are a wide variety of Excel templates you can get to figure out how to pay off your credit cards to optimize your finances, including some available from the Microsoft Office site.
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Visit the Microsoft Office site or your favorite search engine to locate one that fits your needs. Then, download it to your computer, open it in Excel and enter your credit card balance and interest rate data and information on your planned payment schedule to plan your finances.
Excel Formulas for Credit Card Interest
There are useful formula functions in Excel that can help you figure out information about your finances.
One is the PMT function, which allows you to calculate the size of a monthly payment needed to pay off a credit card or other loan in a certain number of months. You will need to know your credit card's monthly interest rate, which is the annual rate divided by 12, the number of months in a year. For instance, if your credit card annual rate is 24 percent, your monthly rate is 24 / 12 = 2 percent.
Then, call PMT with the monthly rate, the number of payments you want to make and the current balance. For instance, write =PMT(2, 18, 10000) to figure out how many payments you need to make to pay off a $10,000 balance at 2 percent monthly interest in 18 months.
PMT exists in some other spreadsheet programs as well, including Google Sheets. If you're not using Excel, read your spreadsheet's documentation to verify how to use it.
Using the NPER Formula Function
Another useful formula function is NPER, which figures out how much time it will take to pay off a loan with a fixed monthly payment.
For example, if you have a 2 percent monthly interest rate, intend to pay $500 a month and owe $5,000, you can call NPER(2, -500, 5000) to determine how many months it will take to pay down the loan. Remember that since the payment is decreasing your balance, it should be preceded with a negative sign, and that you must use the monthly interest rate rather than the annual one.
Using Online Calculators
You can find various online calculator tools for credit card interest and payoff dates that don't rely on Microsoft Excel at all. Many of these will let you input your credit card interest rate and current balance and figure out how quickly you can pay off your balance.
Search around for a calculator that has the features you want from a site you trust. You can find them on financial news and information sites and sometimes on bank portals, possibly including your bank.
Remembering Your Privacy and Security
Excel spreadsheets you download from the internet can potentially contain malware that could steal your data, harm your computer and phone or erase the data on them. Other sites you input information to can potentially store it for their own use, including targeting you with advertisements or a more nefarious purpose.
Make sure you are comfortable putting information into an Excel sheet or website, including data like how much you owe on your credit cards. Pay attention to any warnings you get from Excel or your web browser.
While some financial sites may ask for login information to access data from your bank or credit card issuers, be very wary of sharing it with sites you don't thoroughly trust, since they could steal your information or even your money.
Changing Balances and Interest Rates
Remember that if your interest rate changes, as many credit card rates do over time, you should redo your calculation with the new interest rate to get the most accurate numbers. Naturally, if your rate goes up and you make the same payments, it will take longer to pay off your balance, while if it goes down, you may pay off your balance sooner.
You might also wish to shift payment dollars between cards or just pay more or less on a card per month depending on changes in interest rates. Reuse the credit card payment calculator or Excel spreadsheet to get the accurate numbers.
Similarly, if you spend more on the credit card and your balance goes up, or if you make a larger than usual payment, you will want to reapply the credit card amortization schedule Excel sheet or another tool to get accurate data to plan your finances.