Drowning in Credit-Card Debt?

With the economy struggling, you’d expect to find increasing numbers of Americans using their credit cards to sustain spending they can’t really afford. There’s no shortage of personal-finance horror stories of that ilk. But a Gallup poll gives reason to think those tales don’t represent a new norm.

Forty-three percent of respondents said they always pay the full amount on their credit-card bills, with another 17 percent saying they usually do so. Twenty-five percent pay as much as they can while leaving a balance, and 12 percent usually pay the minimum permissible. The number who say they pay just the minimum has barely budged since 2001, when it stood at 11 percent; and the number paying what they can but leaving a balance has declined slightly, from 29 percent.

The poll also asked credit-card holders to estimate the total amount they owe on their cards. For a happy 42 percent, the answer was “nothing.” Eight percent said they owe something, but less than $500; 6 percent are in for $501-1,000. At the other end of the scale, 9 percent reported owing more than $10,000, and 10 percent said they owe $5,001-10,000.