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Is your credit card debt out of control? Clark Howard says this is how you can pay it off

ATLANTA — Inflation continues to drive the price of just about everything up and many Georgians are racking up huge credit card balances because of it.

With interest rates climbing, it can seem impossible to keep up with monthly payments.

Channel 2 consumer adviser Clark Howard says there is a way to pull yourself out from under this burden.

Howard spoke with one man who told him how he was able to pay off nearly $100,000 and how you can do the same thing with yours.

“It’s kind of been the lifeline for some things,” consumer Jomahl Gildersleve said.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Americans owe nearly $900 billion in credit card debt.

“Inflation has stretched household budgets in a way that we haven’t seen in a long, long time. And a couple of the consequences of that are more and more households are running down the savings that have been built up during the pandemic and running up the credit card debt that had been paid down during the pandemic,” said Greg McBride, chief analyst with Bankrate.

Demetrius Thrasher understands how quickly credit card balances add up. As a member of the U.S Navy, living abroad he didn’t think twice about his spending.

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“It started, literally, (with) a pair of eyewear,” Thrasher said. “I started getting swept up in that lifestyle. By the time I left Spain, first-class flights from here to the states, doing the most partying like it’s nobody’s business, started tipping close to $90,000.”

When the military told him his debt would prevent him from advancing, he got serious about paying it off.

With the help of Money Management International, Thrasher came up with a repayment plan.

“They literally lowered all my interest rates to single digit because apparently, I was 17 and up with all these cards,” Thrasher said.

The debt he built in two years took him eight to pay off — but he did it. And so can you.

Howard said knowing your interest rate is key.

“Grab one of those low rates like 0% to balance transfer or introductory offers. That’s a great way to insulate yourself from rising rates. But more importantly, give yourself this runway to get that debt paid off once and for all,” McBride said.

And don’t even think about missing a payment — late fees and penalties add up quickly.

If you’re really in trouble, do what Thrasher did and ask for help. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling will connect you with an agency like his. Just go to NFCC.org.

The most important lesson Thrasher wants you to understand: “Please learn the difference between a need and ‘I want.’”

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