Hightower: America's Deepening Credit-Card Hole

We Texans have a saying: "When you find you've dug yourself into a hole, the very first thing to do is quit digging." Well don't look now, but one very deep hole more and more Americans find themselves in today is credit-card debt. How deep is the hole? In October, Americans owed $384 billion on their credit cards -- 14 percent more than last year. And that was before we bought Christmas gifts. Worse, the amount that was more than 3-months past due rose by a third last year. This is no easy hole to quit digging, much less get out of. Start with the fact that most folks' income is falling, as companies eliminate decent jobs and knock-down wages, so more people are using plastic just to make ends meet. But there's another factor that makes it hard to quit: bankers' greed. That 18-percent-or-so interest rate you pay on your credit card bills has become the largest profit center for banks, and they gleefully encourage you to dig, dig, dig that hole deeper and deeper. Indeed, some banks will take-back your card if you don't charge enough to satisfy them, or if you pay-off your balance each month rather than running-up interest-bearing debt. The hook more suckers, banks mailed out about three billion new credit-card come-ons last year, and they were especially aggressive in hustling college and even high school students to accept their little plastic shovels and start digging their won holes. Visa and Mastercard alone expect consumers to owe 60 percent more on their cards by the year 2000. And if you have trouble making your monthly payments, not to worry -- just put in your credit card! The card pushers are happy to loan you money today to pay for charges you made yesterday so you can make more charges tomorrow. To learn how we can finally stop digging, contact Bankcard Holders on 540-389-5445.

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