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Consumers urged to be vigilant about credit card debt

For most Americans, December means lots of shopping. Thousands of consumers are frequenting malls and stores, which is good for Florida's economy, but can be potentially devastating to an individual's credit. This is the most common time of year for people to over-spend with credit cards, which can result in months or even years of crippling debt.

Even though most people are still feeling the effects of today's difficult financial times, credit cards remain an overwhelmingly popular method of paying for goods and services. If used with discretion, they're a good way to build up your credit. However, many people end up using them too much, soon facing serious financial challenges.

A personal finance counselor recommends that consumers pay with debit cards whenever possible. He also suggests that people stay within their means on a budget they can afford with money that's already in the bank. He warns that credit cards end up trapping people with high interest rates and fees that can create debt that takes years to pay off.

Identity theft also rises during the holidays. Any time a consumer's credit card numbers and personal information are stolen, there is a risk of credit being compromised and possibly the loss of hundreds to thousands of dollars. Unmanageable debt and identity theft are leading causes of financial strain and bankruptcy in the U.S.

The personal finance counselor recommends a balance of restraint and common sense during the holiday shopping season to avoid future problems with debt, high interest rates, creditor phone calls and bankruptcy.

Source: wuft.org, "Credit card debt, identity theft rise during holiday season, financial adviser says," Keighly Chambers and Kelly Price, Dec. 3, 2012

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