In the United States, we love to use our credit cards to buy everything -- from a simple cup of coffee to a car to medical procedures to our college educations. But this means that most Americans are holding a good bit of debt on their cards. How much debt you might ask? Well, the average American household has about $15,762 worth of credit card debt on its books. Even worse, they are paying about $6,658 per year in interest on that debt.
But what is the source of our infatuation with credit cards, you might ask. Do they help us beyond bringing things that would otherwise be unaffordable within our financial reach? Yes, credit cards do serve some benefit according to some financial experts.
For one, having multiple credit cards can help with your credit rating. This can make bank loans with smaller interest rates more available. Secondly, credit cards are quick and convenient. It is so much easier to use a credit card than to constantly have to go to the ATM and pull out more cash. Furthermore, a credit card will automatically keep a record of purchases, so from a budgeting and accounting perspective, a credit card can help with financial organization. Fourth, the free benefits offered by different credit card rewards programs are nothing to sneeze at. Indeed, credit card users can rack up points to get free things like dinners, sporting equipment, airline flights and more.
Clearly, there are some benefits to using credit cards, but it is important that American consumers use their cards carefully in order to avoid debt problems. Strategies to keep in mind when using credit cards include keeping a budget; saving some cash for emergencies, having a good credit card payment history and not spending beyond one's means.
When credit card debt gets out of hand and unaffordable, the debt holder will want to consider whether it is possible to ever pay it totally down. If it is impossible to pay down the debt, then it may be wise to consider bankruptcy as a way to resolve the debt once and for all.
Source: Chicago Tribune, "From the community: How Much An Average American Home Carries in Credit?," March 28, 2016