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Do you underestimate card debt?

By Lucy Lazarony · Bankrate.com
Monday, October 24, 2011
Posted: 2 pm ET

Worried about credit card debt? You may be deeper in the red than you realize.

When it comes to credit card debt, many Americans underestimate how much they owe by at least one-third, according to an Oct. 20 report in The New York Times.

For the average household there's a $2,400 difference between what a consumer thinks they owe and what credit card companies report, according to The New York Times article, which examined a new study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

The average household reports credit card debt of $4,700, while lenders report an average balance per household of $7,134, The New York Times reports.

Why do so many folks underestimate their credit card balances? The study cites "willful ignorance, as credit card balances are not welcome information" and "difficulty understanding the growth of credit card balances" as two factors.

Do you know your credit card balances down to the penny, or do you only have a rough idea of just how much you owe on your credit cards?

Calculators from Bankrate.com make it easy to monitor and manage credit card debt. Use this calculator to tally up balances across credit cards. This payoff calculator can help you pinpoint how long it will take you to pay off your card debt.

For advice on toppling card debt, check out these tips. For more information on the study, visit NewYorkFed.org.

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3 Comments
Carl
October 25, 2011 at 9:51 am

I know the amount, using Mint.com. Can see my savings, checking, retirement, and loan balances in a single place.

Wolverine
October 25, 2011 at 7:29 am

I know exactly what I owe, when I owe anything. But I'm in the minority here.

A lot of people who don't care about their balances are people who just don't want to deal with it, and then one day, they wake up to the grim reality that they've been nothing but a leech to this society. Yes, that's what I call people who declare bankruptcy because of their own ignorance. I understand there are people with unfortunate situations, but I'm talking about people who go out and ring up stuff they don't need.

And about the "difficulty understanding the growth of balances", I'm pretty sure this is attributed to people not understanding what paying just the minimum balance is doing to them long term.

But also, a lot of people think education about credit is BORING, so they ignore it... it's not fun... and then, it kicks them in the ass.