Are You Using Credit Responsibly?

Can you carry a monthly balance and still be “responsible”?

First, some good news about credit cards: 35 percent of credit card users always pay off their monthly bills. That’s according to a new survey from the website CompareCards.com.

That news is tempered by these sobering stats: 17 percent “never pay in full,” and 21 percent “have $5,000 or more in total debt.”

But that’s not even the bad news. This is: 71 percent of credit card users – including the ones with thousands in debt – believe they are using their cards “responsibly.”

“Even though more than half of respondents don’t fully pay off their credit cards on a monthly basis, they believe they are using them responsibly,” says Chris Mettler, founder of CompareCards. “This is concerning, as it reveals that many consumers may not be aware of just how much their spending habits impact their credit and long-term debt.”

Those are strong words from a businessman whose website helps Americans find credit cards that suit their needs. If Mettler is nervous about credit card spending habits, Gary Herman is downright worried.

Herman is president of Consolidated Credit, which helps Americans dig their way out of credit card debt.

“One shocking statistic in this report is that 7 percent of credit card users chose ‘high credit limit’ as their ‘primary reason’ for choosing a card,” Herman says. “They didn’t say ‘rewards’ or ‘cash back.’ That tells me those 7 percent of credit card users are quickly maxing out those cards – and in my experience, there’s no easy way to ever pay that off, since interest rates will just add to the total.”

If these credit card users think they’re acting responsibly, Herman says he’s seen that before.

“If they’ve been laid off or divorced or suffering from an illness, they may believe using their credit cards to bridge the gap in their expenses is responsible,” he says. “The problem is those high interest rates. It’s much better to consult a financial expert before simply whipping out those credit cards to cover expenses you can’t afford.”

Consolidated credit offers help both online – see our Understanding Credit Card Debt section – and on the phone. A certified credit counselor will give you a free debt analysis so you can choose your personalized path back to financial independence. Call . That’s truly the responsible thing to do.