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How Much Credit Card Debt Is Bad?

According to CNBC, 55 percent of Americans who have credit cards have debt. Our debt counselors know that debt is a normal part of most consumers’ financial lives. At some point, almost everyone has had some form of debt. Millions of Americans have student loans, car loans, and mortgages so they can pay for their education, cars, and homes. Credit card debt, however, can be one of the more difficult forms of debt because of its high interest rate. Even so, many people deal with credit card debt every month. But how much credit card debt is bad?

How much credit card debt is bad? ACCC says watch out for these signs.

How much credit card debt is bad? ACCC says watch out for these signs.

How much credit card debt is bad?

The answer can look different for everybody. It largely depends on your own budget, income, and spending habits. As a general rule of thumb, you should keep your credit utilization ratio below 30 percent. Your credit score could take a hit if you spend more than that percentage of your available credit. However, just because you can spend up to 30% of your available credit without hurting your credit score doesn’t mean that you should. Depending on your financial situation, that might be too much for you. There are a few warning signs you should watch for to determine if you might have too much credit card debt:

  1. You can’t pay your card off in full every month. Ideally, you should be paying your credit card bills on time and in full every month. If you are finding that you can’t afford to pay your credit card bill in full and only pay the minimum, you may be spending too much with your credit card. Don’t spend money you don’t have!
  2. Your credit card debt is a regular source of stress. Losing sleep over your debt is never a good sign. If debt is a regular source of stress and anxiety for you, it’s time to reevaluate your credit card use.
  3. You use credit cards to make up for what you can’t afford in your budget. If you are consistently using credit cards to supplement your expenses, this is a big warning sign that something is wrong with your finances. If you are relying on your cards every month, you’re likely building up a large amount of debt that is quickly accumulating interest.

How do you keep your credit card spending in check?

The first step to healthy credit card use is to have a budget in place that ensures you can pay all your expenses without resorting to credit. If your expenses are more than your income, you have a couple options. First, you could see what areas of your budget where you can cut back. Using coupons at the grocery store, ordering takeout less, and curbing impulse spending are great ways to cut back. Unfortunately, that may not always be enough. Sometimes the best answer is more income. We have some ideas for side hustles that can help supplement your income!

For consumers who are already overwhelmed by their credit card debt, it may be time to seek outside help. A nonprofit credit counseling agency can be a helpful starting point. During your free credit counseling session, the credit counselor will talk to you about your income, expenses, assets, and liabilities. From there, they will help you create a workable budget and also talk to you about your debt options. One option could be a debt management program, which can help you pay off your debt in five years or less.

Final Thoughts

So, how much credit card debt is bad? Your answer is unique to your financial situation. Now that you know some of the warning signs of too much credit card debt, you can look at your own finances to determine if you are spending too much!

If you struggle to pay off debt, ACCC can help. Schedule a free credit counseling session with us today. 


Madison is a Marketing Communications & Programs Associate at ACCC. She is excited to share her tips on saving money and being financially responsible here on the Talking Cents blog!

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