Using credit cards for necessities usually a sign of a bigger problem

Daily expenses are driving up average credit card debt to levels not seen since the Great Recession.

Credit cards offer convenience and assurance, especially when shopping online or for those times when cash might not be readily at hand. That convenience, however, comes at a cost – mainly in the form of high interest rates. As a result, credit cards shouldn’t be relied upon in order to meet da y-to-day expenses, such as the grocery or heating bills. Yet, according to Fox Business, a recent study has found that credit card debt is booming and it is largely due to more Americans turning to their credit cards just to get by. The study suggests that despite the economy improving, millions of Americans are in a precarious financial situation and may be in need of more sustainable solutions to help them get back on their feet.

Day-to-day expenses

About 29 million Americans currently carry credit card debt, and close to half of them (14 million) have been carrying that debt for at least two years. As a result, many Americans are only able to make interest payments on their debt, which can be substantial. As Forbes reports, the average interest rate on credit card debt is 18.75 percent and the average household spends more than $1,200 each year just on credit card interest.

Such long-term debt suggests that many Americans are struggling to pay off their credit cards or to even keep up with monthly payments. What is even more alarming, however, is that such debt is increasingly being fueled not by luxury purchases but by people simply struggling to pay for their daily expenses, like gas, daycare, and groceries. Using credit cards for daily expenses can be particularly dangerous since it is often the start of a debt spiral, whereby individuals struggle to stay on top of minimum payments and those high interest rates.

Credit card debt ballooning

Credit card debt, in fact, is reaching levels not seen since the 2008 Great Recession. By the end of 2017, it is predicted that Americans will be carrying a total of $1 trillion in credit card debt. Currently, the average American household carries an astonishing $16,425 in credit card debt, which can prove especially unsustainable when combined with other types of debt, such as medical expenses, student loans, mortgages, and car loans.

Even more worrying is that the ones who are suffering the most tend to be older individuals. Baby Boomers aged 63 to 71 are the most likely (at 63 percent) to have carried a credit card balance for more than two years, followed by those aged 72 and over at 57 percent. Given that such people are often in or preparing for retirement, a lot of credit card debt can be particularly difficult for them to pay off.

Bankruptcy may be an option

Many individuals shy away from bankruptcy until their financial situation has become especially dire. However, instead of getting caught deeper into a debt spiral of endless minimum payments and high interest rates, it may be worthwhile to talk to a bankruptcy attorney about more long-term solutions. Bankruptcy is not suitable for everyone, but in many cases it can help individuals discharge their debts, hold onto their most important assets, and get their financial affairs in order faster.

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