HOUSTON – High inflation drives up credit card debt. And rising interest rates make repayment more difficult.
CreditCards.com reports that 25% of cardholders use credit cards to pay for day-to-day expenses like groceries, gas, and childcare; and 60% have had a balance for at least one year.
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Juan Pinon wants those struggling to pay off their debts to know it can be done. He paid $47,000 in less than three years.
“My parents, they emigrated here from Mexico,” Pinon said. “They have the old school mentality, work hard and save.”
Pinon also worked hard, earning two degrees. However, he says he wanted the American dream too quickly and racked up $47,000 in credit card debt.
“Sometimes it was something emotional,” he said. “And to fill that emotional need, maybe I’d go to a restaurant and have a steak when I should have been at home eating a sandwich.”
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“But deep down I was in trouble. I was in debt and I didn’t know how to get out of it,” Pinon recalls.
He turned to nonprofit credit counselor Money Management International. Although he could get advice online, he drove five hours from McAllen, Texas, to Houston to get help in person.
“There had to be changes, sticking to what I really needed, making sacrifices to change,” Pinon said.
“For our average customer, who has about $18,000 in credit card debt, if they only make the minimum payments, that results in about $4,500 in interest over the course of the year,” said said Thomas Nitzsche of MMI.
Nationally, WalletHub reports that credit card debt has increased by $67 billion in recent months.
Nitzsche says MMI is starting to hear from more and more people who are drowning in debt.
“When chargebacks go up, we start getting more referrals,” Nitzsche said.
MMI helps borrowers budget and negotiates with creditors to reduce balances and interest rates, bringing them down to an average of 6.41%. Well below the current average of 18%.
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Pinon paid off that $47,000 in less than three years and built his new American dream, a home for his family.
“Whatever your situation, ask for help. If I could inspire someone through this interview, that would be great,” he said.
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling can also help borrowers find nonprofit credit counselors and resources to help them manage their debt.