The credit card plague: a never ending cycle of debt

By Katie Clark
March 8, 2007

Meghan Hurley

In this generation, almost all Americans have at least one credit card in their name. According to, in 2004 there were 1.3 billion credit cards in circulation throughout the United States. Credit cards seem to be easy enough, pretty much a “get-now and pay-later” theory; however credit cards can be the reason why Americans fall into massive amounts of debt each year.

Credit card debt has been increasing throughout the years. According to, in 1994, Americans consumer debt reached $1 trillion. With an increase in almost a trillion dollars, the debt in 2005 reached $2.2 trillion. Even college students are falling into the habit.

Many college students and graduate students are finding themselves in this sort of problem. Credit card companies start sending out offers for their cards as soon as someone turns 18. There is a guarantee that you will find at least one offer every week in your mailbox. According to the Credit Card Industry, they have mailed out over 6 billion credit card offers in 2005, which on average is six offers per household per month.

Most students receive their first credit card when they begin college. Most parents set their children up with an easy first-time cardholder account. Once students become used to the idea and understand how to take care of their credit card, many can become in fascinated with the idea of getting now and paying later. Soon many realize how easy it is to apply for all different types of credit cards, which becomes overwhelming for many.

This is what happened to Laura, who asked that her last name not be used. Laura is an eighth-grade English teacher, who graduated from college in 2002. While in college, Laura lived at home and commuted each day to Temple University. Laura received her first credit card the summer going into college. She was 18 at the time. Like many students, her parents signed for her and made sure it was used for emergencies only.

Laura seemed to be very responsible with her credit card. She only used it for emergencies or when she was low on cash. She became very confident with the idea of having a credit card and paying off the payments. Laura began receiving many different credit cards offers in the mail and in different stores. She decided to take up on a few of the offers.

Laura had three credit cards by the time she was 19 but unlike many other college students she had a steady job at a bank, so she was able to keep up with her payments so far. “I was making every payment on time with even a little more money than the minimum payment. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to keep getting different things and paying it back monthly; it was just way too easy.”

By the time Laura graduated from college, she had about nine different credit cards. Laura was still keeping up with her payments until one month when she realized she missed a payment for her Old Navy card. Once this happened, that next month she realized her credit card interest increased. This made it hard for Laura to keep up with that payment, therefore she missed a few more payments on some of her other cards. This then lead to more interest increases.

This did not stop Laura from still applying for more credit cards. It was like an obsession. “I loved to shop and credit cards just made it that much easier to spend money.” Once out of college, Laura received a job right away at a Catholic school in her hometown. She remained at home considering the pay an eighth-grade Catholic school teacher makes. She owned 19 credit cards, the most she has ever owned and will ever. Laura became swamped with different school loan bills, credit card bills and all her other general bills. “It was an ongoing stress builder, I was in complete debt.”

By this time, Laura was in major money problems. She kept spending more than she was making and became irresponsible with her payments, just making the minimum payments and skipping some here and there. It soon came to the point where she had no idea what to do. She wasn’t receiving any call backs from public school, in which she applied to for a new teaching job and her parents couldn’t help her because of their own debt.

After awhile of stress building up on her, Laura finally realized what needed to be done. “There just wasn’t enough income for all my bills. I had to file for bankruptcy; it was my only choice.”

Filing for bankruptcy isn’t the easiest process. Laura needed to hire a lawyer, which comes to about $2,000 or so in legal fees. She learned you can’t just claim bankruptcy and that is it. Laura had to go in front of the Pennsylvania bureau, which is like a judge. Then she explained her financial struggles to him/her. Soon the judge found her eligible to claim bankruptcy. Laura lost every credit card she owned, along with all her credit card history that she built throughout the years. Some may think this is good but when you are a young adult out in the real world it becomes hard to have no credit history and have bankruptcy on your record while trying to find jobs, buying cars or a house.

“Don’t get suckered into the cheap and easy way, it’s not everything it seems to be,” said Laura.

Katie Clark

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