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Spiraling Credit Card Debt: What's Your First Step?

Credit card question: My credit card debt is out of control and I don’t know what to do. What should I do to get my life back?

Answer: I’ve gotten this question many times over the past few months. Many of you wrote to me after reading Confessions of a Former Credit card-a-holic, which was my own miserable debt story.

[Related Article: Confessions of a Former Credit Card-a-holic]

I’m so glad that some of you reached out to me. I do understand your pain and how awful debt feels. At the time I was in debt, I had few big expenses (like kids or a mortgage). So it worked for me to double and triple my minimum payments. But sometimes the cash flow isn’t there and you can’t take that approach, right?

For those of you who feel totally overwhelmed, I decided to turn to my colleague, Gerri Detweiler, who is Credit.com’s debt expert, for advice.

As part of the Credit CARD Act of 2009, credit card statements now include a table that shows how much you have to pay monthly to pay off the debt in three years. “The first step is to look at your credit card statement and see if you can afford to pay that amount each month. If you stick to that amount, you can be debt-free in 36 months,” Detweiler says.

But what if you can’t make the payments? Detweiler suggests looking for a reputable credit counselor who can suggest options to help you get control of your debt. To find a list of approved agencies, check with the Department of Justice, which has a list of approved agencies by state. Or you can contact the National Foundation for Credit Counseling to find a reputable agency in your area.

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Credit.com provides readers with unique insight, helpful tips and straight answers about their financial world. Our team of reporters and experts explore credit, loans, debt, saving, and identity theft topics, all designed to help you make smarter financial decisions. Visit Credit.com to sign up for your FREE Credit Report Card and find out where you stand today!

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Beverly Blair Harzog Credit.com's Credit Card Expert, Beverly focuses on credit card issues and provides insight about current news that affects the credit card industry and consumers. She's a nationally recognized expert on credit card issues and is also the co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Person-to-Person Lending. Reach Beverly at beverly@credit.com.

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