THE HELP DESK The Help Desk: Top Tips

Help with credit-card debt

Under the threat of increasing regulation, credit card companies provide more online assistance. Gerri asks how helpful is it really?

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By Gerri Willis, CNN personal finance editor

For more information on managing your largest investment, check out Gerri Willis' 'Home Rich,' now in bookstores.

NEW YORK ( -- The average American family carries $8,000 to $10,000 in credit-card debt. A new Web site, called, was developed by the credit card industry to help consumers out. The site promises to help you manage your debt; communicate better with your credit card companies, and will hook you up with accredited credit counselors.

The Web site was launched on Feb. 18, coinciding with an increased focus on card company practices.

Already Senator Christopher Dodd's credit card reform legislation is slated to be voted on in the Senate. And new Federal Reserve regulations go into effect in July, 2010.

Critics say the site is a public relations move but, having said that, the good news is that the site has a phone number for people in trouble. That number will hook you up with the right people at your card operator's offices if you are having trouble paying.

That's no small thing. You can also learn about credit card terms and use a debt calculator on the site.

The reality is that you don't really need the Web site to make the right moves.

First, don't add to your balance -- make sure you call your issuer and ask for an installment plan. Perhaps you can delay some payments or get your interest rate reduced. And don't forget that you can also transfer those balances to a new card with low APR but make sure you watch out for fees.  To top of page

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