HOUSTON - High inflation is driving up credit card debt. And rising interest rates are making it harder to pay it off.
CreditCards.com reports that 25% of holders are using credit cards to pay for everyday expenses like groceries, gas, as well as child care; and 60% have carried a balance for at least a year.
Juan Pinon wants those struggling to pay off debt to know that it can be done. He paid off $47,000 in less than three years.
"My parents they migrated here from Mexico," said Pinon. "They have the old school mentality, work hard, and save.'
Pinon worked hard, too, earning two degrees. However, he says he wanted the American Dream too quickly and racked up $47,000 in credit card debt.
"Sometimes it was something emotional," he said. "And to fill that emotional need, maybe I would go to a restaurant and have a steak when I should have been home eating a sandwich."
"But deep down, I was in trouble. I was in debt and didn't know how to get out," Pinon recalled.
He turned to non-profit credit counselor Money Management International. Even though he could receive counseling online, he drove five hours from McAllen, Texas to Houston, to get help face-to-face.
"There had to be changes, sticking to what I really needed, making some sacrifices in order to change," said Pinon.
"For our average client, who carries about $18,000 in credit card debt, is if they only make the minimum payments, that results in about $4500 in interest over the course of the year," said Thomas Nitzsche with MMI.
Nationwide, WalletHub reports credit card debt has climbed by $67 billion in the last few months.
Nitzsche says MMI is starting to hear from more people who are drowning in debt.
"When delinquencies go up, we start getting more referrals," said Nitzsche.
MMI helps borrowers set a budget, and negotiates with creditors to reduce balances and interest rates, lowering them to an average of 6.41%. Much lower than today's 18% average.
Pinon paid off that $47,000 in less than three years and has been building his new American Dream, a home for his family.
"Whatever your situation is, ask for help," he said. "If I could inspire anybody through this interview, that would be great."
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling can also help borrowers find non-profit credit counselors and resources to help with debt management.