Credit cards are almost never "good" debt, yet professional and managerial workers -- who theoretically should know better -- still carry a median balance on plastic of $3,300, according to the Federal Reserve's most recent Survey of Consumer Finances. Even such a small amount can be deleterious, since you're paying around 15% in interest.
Three ways to get out of the red: Just pay it off.
Behavioral research finds, oddly, that people often save in cash while carrying credit debt. That's a -15% rate on credit vs. 0.13% on savings. See the problem? If you've got enough cash to cover the balance, use it. Get a 0% card.
Interest-free balance-transfer offers are back in a big way. If you think you'd be able to pay off your total debt within 15 months, get one of these cards, and bank what you would have paid in interest. Break out the tools.
Can't pay your debt in 15 months? Use the tools at creditcards.com/calculators to come up with an aggressive schedule to erase the debt. The sooner your IOU is wiped away, the sooner you're back on the wealth-building track.
NEXT: Fill up your 401(k)
By Carla Fried, Anne C. Lee, Elaine Pofeldt, Susie Poppick and Penelope Wang @Money
- Last updated June 25 2012: 7:33 PM ET