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Dubious milestone: American credit card debt nears $1T

Credit Card Statement Past Due. Source iStockphoto by

Credit Card Statement Past Due. Source iStockphoto by Getty Images Credit: iStockphoto by Getty Images / KIRBY HAMILTON

Americans are drowning in credit card debt. According to a survey from CardHub, Americans repaid just $26.8 billion in credit during the first quarter of this year — the smallest first-quarter pay down since 2008.

Worse, CardHub projects that by year-end there will be $1 trillion in outstanding credit card balances, a threshold never reached, not even in the period prior to the Great Recession.

For those looking for a lifeboat, the experts weigh in.

  • Get organized

Make a list of all your debts. Target the highest interest rate debt first. “Pay above the minimum so you pay less interest,” says Chris Cabanillas, founder of the law firm Cabanillas & Associates in White Plains.

Automate payments. Not only do you avoid late fees, you may earn a better interest rate.

  • Find extra cash

Use any raise to pay off debts. “Act like you didn’t get a raise. Live on the amount you previously made and devote your entire raise to your debts,” says Robert Johnson, president of The American College of Financial Services in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.

  • Explore options

Consolidate loans if you can do so at a lower interest rate. Another thought, says Cabanillas, “Consider renegotiating the terms of your loan. Tell creditors you’re having trouble making payments. Mention that bankruptcy may be your only other option. They’ll listen. They’d rather renegotiate than face a total loss.”

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