SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- This week, for the first time, American credit card debt surpassed $1 trillion.
Getting into credit card debt at any time is not good, but this is a particularly bad time to rack up debt.
Yohani Solano lives in Hayward and says she doesn't live beyond her means and doesn't carry any credit card debt.
"I learned to respect money through credit cards," she said. "They charge a lot. A lot, if I don't pay at the end of the month."
Paula Glines is so careful, she went years without a credit card.
"Till I got married," Glines said. "Then we said, 'OK, we'll get a credit card to buy our ticket in San Francisco, and we moved to Australia.'"
Those are success stories, there are others not so successful. Keeping track of credit card use -- both good and bad -- is Ted Rossman's job. He's a senior industry analyst with Bankrate.com.
"The average credit card now charges interest rates of over 20%, so that minimum payment math is really brutal," Rossman said.
"If you have the average credit card balance and make minimum payments at the average interest rate, you'll be in debt for 17 years," he said.
For some that is a best case scenario. If you have bad credit, your rate is likely around 30%.
Leila Decker of San Francisco doesn't have credit card debt but did at one time. She used the debt strategically to get her education. She was just as strategic when paying off her debt.
When asked how she got out of debt, she said, "Work extra, took on extra jobs in college."
Rossman says nearly half of us can learn from that. "We found 47% of credit card holders carry debt from month to month; three years ago that was 39%. 60% have had that debt for at least a year."
Times are tough for those carrying a balance, and seemingly getting tougher.
There are plenty of credit card deals out there that offer zero percent interest for a year, sometimes more, but be careful -- those cards often come with a higher interest rate once interest is charged again.
Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.
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