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Credit Debt Heads Downward [AUDIO]

Joe Raedle, Getty Images

Consumers across the nation paid down their credit card debt by 11 percent in 2011 and the average debt dropped as well. The average credit card balance last year was $6,576, down from $7,404 in 2010. That’s according to a report from CreditKarma.com. Meanwhile, the average New Jerseyan carries $7,608 on their credit cards.

“Throughout 2011, many people were focused on paying down their debt because their debt had no where to go,” said Bruce McClary of ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solution. “Many were maxed out on their credit cards, credit limits were creeping up. So, many folks concentrated on paying down their balances to free up a little bit of credit spending. As people become more confident about the economy, I think they become more confident with managing their money.”

Toward the end of 2011, consumers began using their credit cards a little more. “Going forward and looking into the coming year, the bigger question will be whether that trend of credit spending increases and if it does, whether consumers will be able to manage that debt,” said McClary.

“The key is to not carry a balance and to pay off those charges as soon as possible,” said McClary. “If that’s not possible, at least try and pay more than the minimum payment so you can pay down the balances faster and avoid paying all the interest.”

New Jerseyans tend to carry more credit card debt than those in many others states. “It’s all relative,” said McClary. “It costs a little more to live in New Jersey than it does in states like Alabama and Arkansas. So, you have to look at credit card debt relative to where you live.”

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