Credit means receiving something of value now and promising to pay for it later, often with a finance charge added by the lender. American consumers use credit to buy almost everything, including food, clothing, housing and transportation. Unfortunately, many people struggle to control their use of credit and get overwhelmed by piles of bills. If you need help battling credit problems, we have information and tools you can use to manage your credit problems and take control of your finances.

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    Total U.S. Consumer Debt

    $11.4 trillion

    Credit Cards

    Credit cards are a fast and convenient way to spend money, which makes them one of the easiest ways to get into debt. The average U.S. household has $7,281 in credit card debt. Those that carry a balance owe $15,609. Learn how to manage credit cards and what to do if you're in over your head.

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    Credit Scores & Reports

    Your financial health is often expressed by one number — your credit score. Credit scores are an assessment of your credit history and your ability to handle money. Lenders use them to determine interest rates, credit limits and more. Learn how to improve your score and take steps to keep it high.

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    Loans & Credit

    Loans and credit work hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other. Home, car, student and small business loans help establish your credit, but also are the reason so many people are in debt. Learn how to establish good credit, pay off loans faster and avoid long-term debt.

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    More on Credit

    How does credit affect me?

    Poor credit is an albatross that penalizes nearly every aspect of your financial life. Poor credit is detailed on credit reports that provide lenders, landlords and potential employers a history of your spending and creditworthiness. Credit reports are a vital step toward approval for credit cards, mortgages, auto loans or even getting your utility service turned on. Successfully managing the information in a credit report increases your ability to receive lines of credit, making it easier to deal with the financial challenges in life. Understanding credit scoring models is key to improving your credit score. If you’ve overextended yourself, credit card consolidation may help you lower your payments and interest rates.

    Types of Credit

    There are two basic types of credit: secured and unsecured. Secured credit is a loan backed by an asset or collateral, such as a property, home, automobile or boat. Unsecured credit has no assets or collateral standing behind it. Credit cards, medical bills and student loans are examples of unsecured credit.

    Fast Fact

    Although the concept of credit dates back thousands of years – to the merchant classes of late Renaissance Italy – the modern credit card first appeared in the United States in the 1920s. By 2014, there were 603.2 million U.S. credit cards in circulation.

    Credit card debt affects millions of Americans' paychecks ever year. Here is how it effects the U.S. as a whole.

    Bill Fay


    Bill Fay

    Staff Writer

    Bill “No Pay” Fay has lived a meager financial existence his entire life. He started writing/bragging about it seven years ago, helping birth into existence as the site’s original “Frugal Man.” Prior to that, he spent more than 30 years covering college and professional sports, which are the fantasy worlds of finance. His work has been published by the Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Sports Illustrated and Sporting News, among others. His interest in sports has waned some, but his interest in never reaching for his wallet is as passionate as ever. Bill can be reached at

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