What Makes Credit Card Debt Particularly Dangerous?



All debt is not created equally. At first glance, two consumers with the same amount of debt might seem like they’re in the same financial boat. But this is like comparing apples to oranges; $25,000 in student debt is by no means the same as $25,000 in credit card debt.

Credit card debt is a particularly dangerous form of debt because of its revolving nature. In other words, it can be used repeatedly—making it all too easy to rack up significant debt over time while still making purchases on credit.

Here are just three risk factors contributing to the potentially dangerous nature of carrying outstanding credit card balances.

Risk #1: Credit Cards Are Easy to Open
If you have a mailbox, then you’ve likely received plenty of envelopes emblazoned with credit card offers in your lifetime. It seems there’s a credit card perfect for every type of consumer under the sun: students, travelers, professionals, parents, retirees and more. You’ll see plenty of phrases meant to get you to sign up, everything from “sign-up bonus” to “flexible rewards” and “cash back.” These days, it’s even possible to get instant approval.

Suffice it to say, it’s generally pretty easy to open a credit card. But applying is the easiest part. How you use your card—also known as credit utilization—whether you pay balances on time goes on to affect your credit score, meaning it’s a great responsibility to wield your credit responsibly.

Risk #2: Credit Cards Carry High Interest Rates
According to statistics from the American Bankers Association, just 29 percent of credit cardholders pay their balance in full each month. This means a majority of consumers who use credit cards are paying back not only the amount they’ve spent, but also interest payments. Since credit cards have notoriously high interest rates—often between 15 and 20 percent—it’s easy to see how this cycle can spiral out of control quickly.

Consumers may even find themselves in the frustrating position of making payments on credit card debt only to find their contributions barely cover accruing interest. In other words, it’s possible to make regular payments on credit card balances without even putting a dent in the actual balance.

Many credit cards entice people with offers of low or no interest for an introductory period. However, consumers should be aware that these rates may jump up suddenly when the six-, 12- or 18-month introductory offer expires. It’s important to keep a close eye on both your principal balance and your interest over time.

Consumers drowning in thousands of dollars of high-interest credit card debt may choose to pursue a relief strategy like debt settlement because it can reduce the amount owed. After enrolling in a program consumers make deposits in a dedicated account they control until they’ve saved up enough to negotiate with creditors. Trained negotiators then reach out to creditors on behalf of clients in an attempt to settle debts for less. Upon reaching a settlement agreement, the money from that dedicated account will go toward zeroing out debt.

Risk #3: Late Fees Can Accumulate Quickly
Paying less than the minimum amount due, or not paying at all, will result in a late fee. Typical late fees range from $25 to $38. Needless to say, it’s counterproductive to accumulate late fees while you’re already trying to pay down your debt.

Credit card debt is dangerous because it can build over time if left unchecked. High interest rates and late fees also complicate the repayment process, making it harder for consumers to eliminate their debts. For these reasons, it’s important to use credit cards responsibly and prioritize timely repayment exceeding the minimum amount due. If you find yourself buried in significant debt, pursuing a debt relief strategy can help you work toward zeroing out your balances and starting afresh.