How much credit card debt is too much?

Discuss anything related to interest rates & fees, like balance transfer offers, low rate cards, annual fees, etc.
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How much credit card debt is too much?

Postby VApennypincher » Sun Feb 06, 2011 1:48 am

What is an acceptable amount of credit card debt and how much is too much? Does it go by dollar amounts or by the percent of the credit limit that is being used? I have one card with a $700 credit limit and over $550 is being used. I know that is small potatoes but would mine be any different if it was $5,500 out of $7,000 or $55,000 out of $70,000? The percent would be the same but the dollar amount is higher.

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Postby Smerri » Sun Feb 06, 2011 6:56 am

General rule of thumb is not to utilize over 30% of available credit.

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Postby down on luck » Mon Feb 07, 2011 2:57 am

I am in a big amount of credit card debt and don't know what to do. I broke my nose and had to pay out of pocket for surgery to have it reconstructed to the tune of $22,000 which is far too much for my income. I put this one three different credit cards and 2 had a 0% interest rate promo for the first 12 months. Those ended and now my total debt stands at nearly $27,000 on my credit cards. Outside of winning the lottery I see no circumstances that would allow me to get out from under this. My credit is good and I am current on all my payments and bills. I don't want to spend the next 10 years paying this off. Should I stop paying?

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Postby Elliot Castro » Tue Feb 08, 2011 4:35 am

It seems to me you are only just paying off minimums on your card. I'd rather pay in higher installments which can geometrically cut down on waiting time.

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Postby Mogul of Pineapples » Tue Feb 15, 2011 10:39 pm

I wouldn't stop paying. Your credit card debt is too much (any amount is) but if you are managing it then there is no reason to ruin your credit.

Would there be any chance you could start paying more than the minimum like Elliot Castro said? If necessary get a second or weekend job and put all that money towards the credit card debt.
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Postby fantasy86dj » Sun Aug 21, 2011 3:46 pm

Don't stop paying. Maybe do something such as the debt snowball method?

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Pay what you can but you'll really hurt yourself if you default

Postby Iroquois » Mon Aug 22, 2011 12:32 pm

First, debt is both looked at as a percentage and as an absolute amount by lenders. They do this with the expectation that they will be paid back if they lend money to you. You took the accounts with hopefully good intentions and the agreement to pay back what you borrowed.

This may take some time to pay back and it may be a good idea to attempt to work with your lenders. As others have said, do your best to at least try and keep up with the minimums

You got your nose fixed because the lenders stood by and did what they said they would do. They have every reason to expect to be paid back. It good practice to honor one's obligations and its very damaging for a very long time to you, and your prospects of renting or owning property, getting insurance, getting cellphone service, utilities, cars, and jobs if you don't.

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Postby jeffysdad » Mon Aug 22, 2011 1:08 pm

Stay current with all of your cards; don't miss/pay late or pay less than minimum. Pay biweekly instead of monthly.
Stop charging on all cards on which you carry a balance, period. This is very important.
If you absolutely must use a card for necessary expenses, use one with no balance as long as you are sure you can pay it off every month; otherwise, pay cash.
Cut your expenses to the bone (e.g., cancel cable, newspaper, gym membership, etc.)and direct all available cash to paying off the card with the highest APR first.
To whatever degree possible/practical use balance transfers to drive down your interest rate. Watch out for balance transfer fees and know the terms in full before you do a BT.
Also, call all of your card issuers and ask for an APR reduction. If they say no, ask for a supervisor. Be prepared to explain what a good customer you are. Do not tell them you are having difficulty paying.
Track all of your cards, their balances and your payment activity on line at least once a week. Total what you owe every week and compare it with previous weeks.

By doing the above I was able to climb out of a $35,000 debt hole and you can do the same.
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Postby JNK » Sun Aug 28, 2011 7:16 am

Most major credit card providers provide special repayment programs for those who have quite unintentionally fallen into debt on the account of something unforeseen (like unexpected medical bills) and I will be the devil's advocate here and say that I would take the proactive approach - keep paying, cut down expenses, don't use credit anymore, etc - like everyone else, BUT I would also investigate the possibility of payment plans.

I agree that what others have said can definitely work, but if your interest rates are high and BT offers and other promotional offers are not in reach (and they may not be if you've maxed out cards and your credit score isn't high enough), then you might end up eating way more interest than you need to be.

That said, my plan would be this:

1) Stop using credit and continue to pay on time (and stop being scared of the amount you owe - it's okay, others have been there and done that!).

2) Immediately start cutting back on your expenses - cable, eating out, mobile plans if you don't really need them, that daily cup of joe from Starbucks - and if you can get away with not having to drive to work, consider that, too.

3) From there, calculate how much money you actually NEED (not want, NEED) to use to sustain yourself and/or your family

4) From there, calculate how much you would need to spend per month to sustain yourself with a bit of buffer room in case

5) Factor in a bit of an emergency fund - if you have a pet, potential vet fees, if you have a car, potential maintainance fees - just in case

6) Now look at how much you earn per month and calculate what is left over after your NEEDS fund and EMERGENCY funds have been subtracted out and this is how much you ARE going to dedicate ONLY to paying off those credit cards. Let's call this the Monthly Credit Card Fund.

7) Determine which card or cards need to be paid off the soonest - highest APR, highest balance, etc - and portion out your Monthly Credit Card fund accordingly - making sure that the large balances and the high APRs are being paid as much as possible and as over the minimum as possible. For example, if I had two cards carrying big balances and one had an APR of 20% and the other had an APR of 15% and I had $500 in my Monthly Credit Card Fund, I would portion out something like 300 and 200 respectively.

8) Double check your numbers and commitment - have someone else double check for you just in case.

9) If you absolutely MUST have a credit card to use, pick out the card with the lowest APR and set it aside. That is now called the Mad Money card and for a reason.

9) For the card companies you owe the payments to, call them and be honest about your situation and then ask about payment plans for people suffering unexpected financial hardships and emphasize that you are a good paying customer and definitely want to keep paying on time but you're having problems keeping up with payments as they keep accruing interest. If you are genuinely a good paying customer, they will not take your news and honesty the wrong way. The last thing you need to be is afraid of the card company. Why? Because they WANT you to pay and on time. Of course, they are a company and want to make money from you, but customers paying them back in full eventually IS of essence to them. Having delinquent accounts or bankruptcy doesn't do them any favors.

NOTE and DISCLAIMER: ANYTHING POSTED AFTER THIS POINT ON IS BASED ON PERSONAL EXPERIENCE. No two companies are ever alike, so make sure you listen carefully and note that your own mileage and experience may differ.

10) If the proper message got through to them (if it doesn't persist and ask for a supervisor), you will more than likely be routed to a credit counselor/credit spe******t working in the debt collections, counseling, or delinquent accounts department.

11) Explain to them the situation and explain again what you explained earlier - again emphasizing that the debt was very much unexpected and again emphasizing that you are wanting to keep paying on time and want to pay more than the minimum and are doing everything you can to do so, but really need help.

12) Provided that goes well, there will probably be the offer of a payment plan or hardship plan which will allow you to make interest-free payments to your account(s) for a certain length of time at the cost of defaulting your account, freezing the account for the duration of the payment plan with the possibility of reopening the account post payment plan, and the possibility of having the account's credit line decreased at the end.

13) Emphasize that you have been a good customer so far with your payments and that you would only default on the condition of the payment plan and make sure that the default strike needed (if needed and usually, it is) can be erased once the payment plan is completed. Basically, the default isn't 'your fault' per se - it is a necessary procedure for the plan and nothing more. Also make sure that your account can be reactivated/unfrozen once the payment plan is completed and its old status reinstated.

14) If everything seems good - and make sure you ask questions of the advisor if you have any - you will probably agree to a sum of money to pay each month and they might require auto-pay each month to ensure that you will pay on time for the duration of the program.

15) Remember your Monthly Credit Card Fund you calculated earlier? It's time to give the advisor the amount you calculated out for that particular card that you are negotiating with/for.

16) Make sure you write down the terms of the repayment plan contract you now are bound in and if they can send you a letter and/or email, all the better. The more responsible you are, the more they will be willing to accomodate.

17) Enjoy the benefit of paying off your account with lower or no interest charges for the duration of the plan and watch as your balance diminishes faster than it might have otherwise while not accruing more interest.

Despite everyone's fears of what a card company or loan company might do to you if you admit to having unexpected problems, you have to believe and understand that YOU PAYING ON TIME and PAYING OFF EVERYTHING is critical to them and so helping you could only be beneficial to them. Not only will their willingness to help mitigate people's fears of the looming debt, but it will help people see that managing it IS possible and it will help build client loyalty.

I don't work for a bank and I don't work for a credit card company, but I am a consumer just like you and I have fallen onto hard times just like you and have done a payment plan before. I was scared to do it and embarrassed to do it and worried that it would negatively impact me, but I did it and guess what?

One of my best relationships is with that card company and bank and it is one of the biggest reasons that I keep using that card. My APR for that card is the second lowest out of all of my cards and I know that soon, I will hit a single digit. I seldom, if ever, have issues with the customer service treating me with anything less than respect. I have gotten credit limit increases before without hard pulls. I had excellent credit at the time of my payment plan and I continued to have excellent credit - it went down some as expected, but went back up to the 780+ - and have not had any trouble - even after the payment plan was completed - in getting good credit offers and getting approved.


I know a lot of people don't believe this, but credit companies DO reward humility and honesty.

Wishing you the very best!
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Postby naomibatac » Mon Sep 26, 2011 5:57 pm

The reason we apply for credit cards is to use them for emergency aside from the convenience those cards provide. So, for emergencies like the one you had is a justifiable. However, for you not to be burdened and heavily indebted, you should pay more than the minimum allowable payment monthly. Pay off first those cards that bear higher interests. Always pay on time. Do not opt to stop paying because it will entail more financial disasters for you.

When I had that kind of problem with my credit cards, I negotiated with the issuing companies to lessen or freeze the interests so that I can pay first the principal amount and the interests were charged on my succeeding billings after I paid off the principal. It is unusual, but the issuing companies may agree because they want to collect and they also want to keep good paying customers.
[size=60]I don't have any relationship to the credit cards or companies discussed here. I am solely a regular member of this forum with no direct financial rewards from this site. My opinions are solely mine.[/size]

A mom of 3 and currently living life, and working for credit card helpline, a company dedicated to helping people get out of credit card debt.

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