Survey: 1 In 5 Americans Don’t Know If They Have Credit Card Debt

WASHINGTON — More than one in five Americans have no idea if they have credit card debt, and three in ten don’t know the interest rate on their credit line, a new survey reveals.

The online survey of 1,001 adults, conducted by U.S. News & World Report, showed that while 21% don’t know if they have debt, while 24% currently owe more than $10,000. A quarter of participants say they tend to have a revolving balance of up to $2,000. Nearly 1 in 6 adults (16%) say they have a balance, but don’t know how much they owe.

Most (37%) keep their debt confined to one card, 27% use two cards, and 12% say they split their purchases across five or more credit cards.

Meanwhile, an impressive 60% of participants pay their bills off on time and have no credit card debt at all, and half say they have no trouble managing multiple monthly payments.

But plenty of Americans are still battling financial issues, with 13% admitting they struggle to make ends meet, and 15% feeling hampered by their growing balances. Another 14% say that juggling their bills is a moderately or very difficult talk for them to deal with.

“When I was young, I fell into a sea of credit card debt because I was uneducated about personal finance and unaware of the high interest rates associated with credit cards,” says Beverly Harzog, best-selling author, credit card expert and consumer finance analyst at U.S. News, in a release. “Luckily, there are tricks like balance transfers that allow consumers to pay off their debt while paying zero interest for a year or more. If you qualify, a balance transfer credit card can save you money and help you get back on track financially.”

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Though finding a credit card that offers a 0% rate on balance transfers can be a great help for those struggling to pay off their debt, 45% didn’t know if their card weren’t sure whether their charged a transfer fee, and 48% have never taken advantage of such an offer. For those who did, 17% said they saved money on interest payments and 12% managed to pay off their debt before the offer ended.

Harzog says if you do find an offer, don’t use the card for purchases, even if it offers a 0% rate on new purchases too. That’s because issuers expect some consumers to take the bait and raise their chances of still having a balance when their offer expires. And when that happens, the rate usually skyrockets and may put a person in a worse financial position than when they started. That’s why it’s also paramount that you know when your offer ends.

The U.S. News Balance Transfer Survey was conducted in May 2019.

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