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South Dakota Consumer Debt: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Americans paid off $35 billion in credit card debt in the first quarter of 2015. Credit: phototogo2/morguefile.com
Americans paid off $35 billion in credit card debt in the first quarter of 2015. Credit: phototogo2/morguefile.com
July 20, 2015

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - South Dakotans joined the rest of the country in paying off almost $35 billion in credit-card debt in the first quarter of this year. That's according to a study released by CardHub.

While the accomplishment may sound promising, Jill Gonzalez, spokeswoman with CardHub, says it's important to note that consumers accrued almost $46 billion in debt in the last quarter of 2014.

"We're getting farther from the recession, a lot of people say we're not all the way out of it yet, but I think consumers are now willing and wanting to spend more," she says. "Unfortunately they're still spending money they don't necessarily have."

To reduce credit-card debt, Gonzalez recommends paying off cards with the highest interest rates first, or transferring debt on those cards to low-interest cards. She notes it's also important not to fall behind on credit-card payments, because delinquency impacts your credit score significantly.

Another method to manage spending is called the "Island Approach," which involves using different credit cards for different categories of transactions. For example, you could transfer existing debt to a zero-percent interest card, and use another card for ongoing spending that offers rewards points. Overall, Gonzalez says having a budget is key.

"Making a budget, sticking to it," she says. "That's kind of the age-old advice but really, just spending less than you have to begin with and then the money you are spending, make sure you're setting it aside to pay off your debt."

In addition to paying off debt, experts recommend building an emergency fund equal to several months' income in case of job loss or an unexpected illness.

Jerry Oster, Public News Service - SD