Credit Advice

When deciding which debt to repay, it doesn’t matter if it is old or new


Have a question?

Do you have a question about consumer credit? You may find an immediate answer by using the search engine. If you can't find what you're looking for, please fill out the form, being as specific as possible.

Please note: The Ask Experian team cannot respond to each question individually. However, if your question is of interest to a wide audience of consumers, the Experian team will include it in a future column.

Our policies
The information contained in this column if for educational purposes only and is not legal advice. You should consult your own attorney or seek specific advice from a legal professional regarding your particular situation.

Please understand that Experian policies change over time. Column responses reflect Experian policy at the time of writing. While maintained for your information, archived responses may not reflect current Experian policy.

Credit Advice

When deciding which debt to repay, it doesn’t matter if it is old or new

Dear Experian,

Is it better to pay off old debts first, or to pay new debt? I have a lot of old debts. Sometimes I ignore them due to paying new bills, but then the old ones are there for a longer amount of time.


Dear CHA,

It doesn’t matter whether the debt is old or new. Not paying any debt is very negative. The harsh reality is that you have to pay all of them to make your credit report better.

You need to focus on two things. The first step in solving your debt problems is getting control of your spending. The first is not creating more debt. If you are still buying things with your credit cards, stop. If you are getting loans to buy things, stop. You must not take on new debt.

The next step is to take a hard, honest look at your financial situation. You can’t solve your money problems until you know exactly what your personal financial situation is. What is your income? What are your expenses? Where can you cut back on expenses? What other sources of income might you explore other than your regular job?

You might be surprised at how much money you waste that could be used to pay off your debts. For example, I often talk to people who have a $5 cup of coffee every morning. That’s more than $1,500 a year.

There are excellent non-profit credit counseling organizations that can help you identify those kinds of things, assist you in establishing a budget and guide you in putting together a financial plan.

During that process, you will probably identify which debts to pay off first. I normally recommend paying off the debt with the highest interest rate first. But, it can be as simple as picking the smallest one or the largest one and putting everything you can toward it until it is gone, while still making minimum payments on the rest of your accounts.

Some people like to start with the smallest debt because it will be the fastest to get paid off, which gives them a sense of accomplishment and increases their confidence that they can pay off the rest. Others start with the biggest debt and hammer it out. Once it’s gone, the mountain seems a lot smaller.

Either way, you have to start somewhere.

Eventually, your debts will get smaller, the negative information will be deleted from your credit report and you will be able to rebuild your credit history. Even better, you’ll have more money to spend because you won’t be paying all that interest,

Thanks for asking.

- The "Ask Experian" team

  • © 2016 Experian Information Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved.