Credit card debt continues to plague Americans

By Brandon Herring - bio | email

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Many American households continue to carry a heavy credit card debt burden, according to a new report by credit reporting agency Equifax.

The agency reports 54 million American households owe 800 billion dollars to credit card companies. That is despite an overall decline in other debt, such as mortgages and car loans, since 2008.

In South Carolina, people owe nearly $9 billion dollars to credit card companies. That ranks 25th in the U.S. for the amount of money owed because of credit cards. North Carolina ranks 9th with the population's credit card balance adding up to more than $22 billion.

Financial planner Chris St. John of Carolina Wealth Advisors said it can be easy to get into credit card debt.

"It's easy to justify to yourself, it's only 40 dollars, it's only 60 dollars, it's only a hundred dollars, and you just hand that piece of plastic, and you don't think about it until you actually get the statement at the end of the month, and then you realize 'What have I done?'" St. John said.

He said climbing out of debt can be a long process, but there are some straightforward steps that can be taken. The first step is to stop or reduce how much is added to a debt balance by figuring out exactly where credit card expenses are coming from.

"Are they coming from the store, are they coming from Costco, are they from going out to eat, and then figuring out do I need to be going out to eat that many times per week," St. John said as an example.

After the source of the debt is addressed credit card users should pay off higher interest rate cards first St. John said. He believes that will save more money in the long run, but he acknowledges other advisors who say paying off the card with the smallest balance first can also be a helpful plan of attack.

He also said making more than the minimum payment is the only way to eliminate credit card debt in a reasonable amount of time.

"[The process is like] riding a bike," St. John said. "The first thing you do is get your bike out. Then you get on your bike, then you pedal. It's really one motion as you're moving but it's all individual steps."

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