The Face of Credit Card Debt

“Credit cards – good, bad, or evil?”  I love asking that question in my classes.  I’m a certified consumer credit counselor.  I’ve seen a lot.  Of course I’m going to tell you credit cards are of the devil.  They are nasty, money stealing, credit destroying, freedom ending pieces of plastic.  They are ‘the man’ out to get you and if you have one you are nothing more than a minion of that system.  Right?  At least that’s what most people expect me to say.

But that’s not my opinion at all.  It is amazing the stigma that can come with credit cards and credit card debt.  A recent survey and article from looked at how Americans perceived not just credit card debt, but the resulting judgement placed on those who carry credit card debt.

According to the study, just over 70% of us feel there is more of a stigma around credit card debt than any other kind of debt, including payday loans.  Of those carrying credit card debt, 35% reported they would be most embarrassed at admitting credit card debt.  More concerning yet, 43% of the same group believed they would feel judged by those they admit the debt to.

So, how outlandishly ridiculous and rare is credit card debt?  According to the article, the average American household owes over $15,000 in credit card debt.  Yep, that’s the average household.

I took a quick, informal poll of our counselors here at the Center for Financial Resources just to find out what they are seeing locally.  Many of them said most people are coming in for help with $20-$25,000 in credit card debt.  One counselor saw as high as $79,000 in credit card debt alone.  Another had two separate clients with $30,000 and $50,000 in credit card debt that each had 6-figure incomes.

Yep, credit card debt is an cards

This is where we diverge from most people’s expectations.  In client satisfaction surveys, we are surprised by how many people comment that they were surprised that we didn’t judge them over their debt.  REALLY?!?  We exist to help people deal with their debt and be able to move on.  Based on both our training and experience, judgement towards clients IS NOT conducive to dealing with debt.

We’ve seen it all.  In reality, we are all human and have all dealt with debt of varying types and amounts.  And we know we are still human.  Imagine how good it would feel to be able to say “I used to have credit card debt.”  Not that the debt was great, but rather that you used to have it but don’t any more.  That’s where credit counseling can help.

shocked manIf you are dealing with debt, there is probably a lot more to it than just the numbers.  Many of our clients report feeling embarrassment, guilt, anxiety, anger, fear, sadness, judgement, and more over their debt.  That’s what they feel before they come in.  After counseling, most report feeling peace, hope, excitement, determination, happiness, and other very positive emotions that are going to help them move forward in attacking that debt that is holding them back.

We can’t do it all for you.  But we are going to help you be ready to attack your debt.

Where to start?  Make the call.  Schedule the appointment.  Our staff that do most of the scheduling sit right outside my office.  I can hear a lot of the calls.  I can tell you that they are nice people.  Make the call, schedule the appointment, and we will walk with you as you work to improve your future.  Our phone number is 605-330-2700 or you can also schedule an appointment or just learn more through our website.


written by Breck Miller
images courtesy



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