Wednesday, June 19, 2024

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New York, New York - Half (48%) of all Americans have credit card debt, yet one third (30%) of debtors have taken no steps beyond monthly payments to reduce it in the past eighteen months.

That's the finding of a new survey from, the online consumer and small business legal resource from Martindale-Hubbell. The survey assessed Americans' attitudes about and behavior towards their credit card debt.

"Credit card debt has reached staggering levels," observed attorney Alan Kopit,'s legal editor. "Yet this new survey demonstrates that many debtors avoid taking some basic steps that could put them on a more secure financial path - one that could assure they don't face the legal consequences of uncontrolled debt."

Americans Avoid Tackling Debt Head-On The survey, conducted for by market researchers Harris Interactive, found that reducing monthly expenditures (such as eating out, entertainment, travel, rent, and cable television costs) was the most common way (other than making regular monthly payments) for debtors to try to alleviate their debt. 43% said they had made those efforts in the past eighteen months.

Yet only 28% had transferred credit card balances to lower interest rate cards, and just 13% had contacted creditors to negotiate reduced interest rates or payment plans in the past eighteen months.

"Finding credit cards with lower interest rates, and negotiating with creditors are two simple things any debtor can do," explained Kopit. "There's just no reason not to use any reasonable method to get rid of credit card debt the fastest way possible."

"People may not be fully aware that unchecked debt can lead to serious legal problems, including costly lawsuits that could result in the loss of property," Kopit continued. "Debtors can be well-served to work with an experienced attorney, who can advise them on the best way to tackle their situation. An attorney can also negotiate with creditors and work with debt collectors on the debtors behalf, and can advise when filing bankruptcy is appropriate."

Debt 'A Way Of Life' For Many According to Kopit, part of Americans' unwillingness to take action against their credit card debt may be their overly optimistic attitude about their debt situation.

"The majority of all credit card debtors, 54%, say their debt simply doesn't concern them at all. Even those with the most credit card debt, over $20,000, tend to feel relatively comfortable with their debt levels. Yet, despite evidence of a lack of aggressive action being taken, two-thirds (64%) of all credit card debtors believe they will be out of debt in one year or less. They seem to think the debt will 'take care of itself' in due course."

"Credit-card debt may simply be a 'way of life' for those who have it," added Kopit.

The survey revealed that half (52%) of all credit-card indebted Americans have had credit card debt for between two and five or more years. Fully one-fifth have not been credit-card debt-free for five years or more. And more than one in ten (11%) claim they have never been without credit card debt.

Other survey findings include:

-> Debt is the biggest problem for adults between ages 25 and 45. Two out of three (66%) people between 18 and 24 say they have no credit card debt at all. Credit card debt becomes far more prevalent after age 25, however. Between 25 and 34 the percent of people without credit card debt drops to just 37%. Between ages 35 to 44, the percentage drops even lower, to 36%. After age 45, however, credit card debt becomes less of a problem. For those between 45 and 54, 38% say they are without credit card debt. Between ages 55 to 64, 48% have no credit card debt, and nearly two-thirds (61%) of those over 65 are credit-card-debt-free.

-> One-third (34%) of Americans say they currently have between $1 and $5,000 of credit card debt: 17% say they have less than $1,000 of debt, the same number say they have $1,000 to $4,999. 9% have between $5,000 and $10,000 and just 5% say they have more than $10,000. 46% claim they have no credit card debt at all, and 6% don't know.

Background and Methodology: 
Harris Interactive conducted an omnibus study on behalf of Martindale-Hubbell. A nationally representative sample of 1,025 Americans ages 18 or older were interviewed by telephone using an unrestricted Random Digit Dialing (RDD) technique that significantly reduces serial bias and ensures that respondents with both listed and unlisted numbers are reached. Only one interview was conducted per household. Interviews were conducted April 3, 2003 to April 6, 2003.

To ensure a reliable and accurate representation of the total national adult population, completed interviews were weighted to known proportions for age, gender, geographic region, and race. The margin of error for the total sample is plus or minus 3%.

About Harris Interactive
Harris Interactive ( is a worldwide market research and consulting firm best known for The Harris Poll®, and for pioneering the Internet method to conduct scientifically accurate market research. Headquartered in Rochester, New York, U.S.A., Harris Interactive combines proprietary methodologies and technology with expertise in predictive, custom and strategic research. The Company conducts international research through wholly owned subsidiaries-London-based HI Europe ( and Tokyo-based Harris Interactive Japan-as well as through the Harris Interactive Global Network of local market-and opinion-research firms, and various U.S. offices.

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