For many California consumers, high levels of credit card debt have led to a debilitating financial scenario. Once the balances have grown to a certain level, it becomes incredibly difficult to find a way to pay them down to more manageable levels. Factor in rising interest rates and a wide range of fees and penalties, and credit card debt can quickly ruin one’s financial outlook.

When addressing the problem, the most important course of action begins with putting an immediate stop to the use of one’s credit cards. While this may seem like a common sense approach, many families have relied on credit to pay for their basic living expenses for a long time. It can be a challenge to take the steps needed to end that cycle of bad debt.

To put the matter into perspective, consider the balance on your highest interest rate card. It may be in the range of 17 percent, but it is not uncommon for lenders to raise rates as high as 25 percent. Compare that to the rate that you earn for money sitting within your savings account.

Those rates usually sit closer to 1 percent. So, by aggressively paying down the balance on the high rate credit card, you are effectively ‘earning’ 17 percent or higher on what you would have paid to the credit card company over the course of time. Of course, in order to climb out of debt, it is necessary to stop using the cards and adding to the balances due.

This is just one approach that can help California consumers take control of their credit card debt. While debt repayment is an option for many, there are some circumstances in which no method of repayment will be sufficient to eliminate existing debt entirely. In such cases, consumers should research other debt relief options, including filing for personal bankruptcy.

Source: babble.com, “Stop Using Credit Cards When You’re in Debt,” Kathleen O’Malley, July 11, 2013