After graduating from college, I had a minor bout of credit card debt. As much as I would like to admit that I racked up my balances from textbooks and other educational fundamentals, in all honesty, it was the semester in France where I stuffed my face with fresh-made croissants, choked down liters of Belgian beer, and hopped on impromptu flights to Madrid, Dublin and Budapest. It seemed like a good decision at the time. I mean, when would be the next time that I would be this young, fun, and French-spoken? It was a no-brainer, and I had to live it up.

Well, all that beer and travel soon revealed itself in the form of $6,000.00 in credit card debt. The balance soon became even more obese with its fatty meals of interest and finance charges for dessert. I became mildly depressed at the idea of paying off this burden, but instead of ignoring it, I decided to proactively do something about it.

First, when I received a new credit card offer in the mail, I transferred my balances to cards where I would pay 0% interest for a year. You can usually find cards that will allow a year of no interest on balance transfers, so this step effortlessly gives you an instant cash flow that you would normally devote to finance charges.

I then sought cards that would offer me, the debtor, something in return for providing the creditor with my business. Specifically, I transferred one of my balances to a Virgin America Visa card through Barclays so that I would get points for travel. I am based in San Francisco, and my mom lives just outside of New York City, so the free airline points are a great bonus just for transferring my balances.

After a year of heavy discipline and cheap living (more on this in another post), I reduced my balances significantly, increased my credit score, and have roughly 15,000 points to use to fly home to visit mom on her 60th birthday. Now if I could only tackle my student loan debt, mais c’est la vie.