Saturday, June 23rd, 2007
By Janie Southard
If you owe a bundle, read on
  Statistics from national financial guru, "The Motley Fool," show that Americans in deep, deep water with credit card debt have increased more than 25 percent over the past five years. And, lenders are still on the prowl big time for those interest rate bucks - to the tune of more than $3 trillion in lines of credit up for grabs.
Another scary bit of information comes from a "Business Week" study, which found the "amount Americans owe on loans (credit cards, houses, cars, etc.) totals more than 100 percent of their income."
That's not all: More than 10 percent of credit cards in America carry a balance in excess of $10,000; plus, about 20 percent of those credit cards are maxed out.
What to do? How to dig out? Here are some tips based on suggestions from The Fool:
1. Spend less than you make. This is a biggie. If you can't, you'll need another job or some additional source of income.
2. Stop using credit, except for emergencies. If you can't actually pay for it right now with cash, don't use credit.
3. Know the difference between good and bad credit. Home mortgages, for example, are good credit because the value of the house will appreciate. Auto loans are borderline because vehicles typically don't appreciate, but, of course, you pretty much need a car nowadays. Everything else is bad credit, especially department store cards, which generally charge whopper interest.
4. Pick the one major card with the lowest interest and cut up all the others. Use that remaining card ONLY for emergencies - car needs brakes, furnace needs repair, etc.
5. Get the latest credit card bills together; find the minimum payment for each; add it all up to get your own minimum monthly payment. Distribute that amount plus a hefty additional chunk to the card with the highest interest.
6. Any bill in the stack that charges more than 14 percent interest needs your attention. Dial the toll-free number on the bill and ask to have your rate lowered to 11 percent. Say you'd like to stay with them, but you have other attractive offers from other banks. They may get insulting, but stand firm. Remember, to them you are a customer and a profit center. Continue to call them until you get your way.
7.  Do not miss minimum payments on your mortgage, auto or other secured credit accounts. You don't want the bank to swoop in and take your stuff.
- Janie Southard, The Daily Standard
Additional online stories for this date
Print edition only stories for this date
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