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Do you know your credit card debt?

[Friday, December 16th, 2011]

A recent study done by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that credit card holders often perceive they have less debt than they actually do. The study found that the average household believes they hold about $4,700 of credit card debt – just two-thirds of the amount that credit cards say they are actually responsible for.

The study speculates that this discrepancy might be a result of borrowers ignorance – possibly because credit card charges and balances can be difficult to keep track of. This finding comes with rising trends of credit card debt.

How can you stay on top of your debt?

  • Know your FICO scores. Monitor your credit report, the summary of your borrowing and repayment history—any new accounts, closed accounts, unpaid bills, late bills, and other activity. If you have a loan, mortgage or credit card, it will show up. The FICO score is a three-digit number between 300 and 850 calculated from a formula that’s designed to gauge your creditworthiness.
  • Watch your statements. Make a habit of scanning your financial accounts daily, or at least weekly. Some banks will let you to set up your alerts to notify you when online transactions are made with your account or when a purchase exceeds a specified amount.
  • Pay as much of your monthly bill as possible. If you do find yourself in credit card debt it’s important for you to pay as much of your bill as you can. The longer you work to pay off a bill, the higher your balance will get due to interest rates.
  • Use the credit cards that are best for you. Pick the one or two major credit cards that feature the lowest annual interest rate and only use them when you need to. Resolve to only spend what you can afford to.
  • Ask for a lower rate. Try calling any account charging you see charging more than 14% interest, and ask them for a lower rate based on customer loyalty. It may help if you suggest that you have received other credit card offers with lower rates.
  • Create a budget. Plan your expenses and anticipate costs ahead of time. Track what you spend either by saving receipts or recording your expenses. Keep track of your bill cycle and plan to pay the full balance.

Credit card debt is something that consumers should keep their eye on, and know how much they owe at all times.

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