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New credit card debt report doesn't bring good news

A new report on credit card debt in the United States has been released, and the numbers do not paint a pretty picture. According to the new report, Americans paid off $32.5 billion in outstanding credit card debt in the first three months of 2014. You may read that figure and think that this represents a major achievement -- but it's 1 percent less than was paid in the same timeframe in 2013 and 5 percent less than the same timeframe in 2012.

In addition, at the end of 2013 card holders had accrued 6 percent more credit card debt than when they began 2013. These are certainly bad signs that show many people are falling into major debt traps with these credit cards, which is interesting when consider some recent reports that say credit card use is declining.

Regardless, the fact of the matter is that credit cards will be used well into the future, and many people have them. The first step to staying out of credit card debt, assuming you have a card, is to use it wisely. Don't make reckless purchases with your credit card. Know what you can and can't pay for at the end of the month.

That leads to the second key point: always pay off your balance at month's end. You don't want to rack up huge interest charges and fees that snowball and make it very difficult to clear your outstanding balance.

Last but not least, remember that you can turn to a personal bankruptcy filing to help you clear your credit card debt. This comes at a cost, of course -- but for some people, bankruptcy is their best option.

Source: The Consumerist, "Consumers Have Paid Down $32.5B In Credit Card Debt So Far This Year, But It's Still Not Enough," Ashlee Kieler, June 9, 2014

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