GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – The Federal Reserve Bank reports the last three months of 2021 brought the largest quarterly increase in credit card balance since data first became available 22 years ago. 

According to the report, that number increased by $52 billion. People in the United States love their credit cards, but probably don’t love the debt that can come from them if they can’t make their full payments each month.

“I think the most obvious disadvantage of using a credit card is overextending yourself and I think a lot of people have gotten themselves in those predicaments,” said Mike Macco, the president of Macco Financial Group, Inc. in Green Bay.

Macco said that credit cards are good for people who can be disciplined with their spending and make sure they make their payments each month.

“People need to be honest with themselves and if they’re prone to that impulsivity either choose to not have credit cards or put freezes on their credit that puts a real significant barrier so there’s some extra steps involved if they wanted to apply for a credit card,” said Macco.

Not paying your credit card in full each month means interest begins to accrue on your purchases. That’s where people start to get into trouble.

He said an advantage of using a credit card is that people can bridge the gap between when they actually get paid and when they need to buy things.

Over at the Salvation Army in Appleton, officials there offer resources for clients with questions about their finances. Through a program called ‘Pathways of Hope’ clients can learn about everything from how to do their taxes to tips on how to avoid credit card debt.

“At first it feels like I have to do it because how else am I going to pay for rent or food, but then you start not being able to make payments,” said Knudtson describing what her clients face.

She said the Salvation Army encourages its clients to be careful with credit card spending.

You don’t have to grocery shop if you’re putting it on your credit card because the Salvation Army has a pantry that you can come and get food in,” said Knudtson.

Macco says that a lot of people can work their way out of credit card debt with small changes to their spending habits. For those who can’t do that, he suggests calling your credit card company, which can usually lead to them issuing a payment plan. However, he does caution that this will impact your credit score. 

Declaring for bankruptcy is another, obviously undesirable, option that can help somebody restructure or wipe away their debt. Of course, declaring bankruptcy would really hurt a person’s credit score.