Christmas is behind us, but the holiday credit-card bills are just now hitting our email or mailboxes and the results for some wont be pretty.
CardHub.com has estimated that Americans will have exceeded $900 billion in credit-card debt by the end of 2015, the highest amount recorded since the economic downturn.
The website has issued a reportthat calculates the impact of credit-card debt on consumers in 2,547 cities and how long it would take consumers in every one of those cities to pay off that debt based on an assortment of data.
The results show how long it can take to pay off debt.
In the case of Columbus, it would take three years and three months for the average consumer to pay off debt of $4,945. That ranks Columbus 835th on the list.
The other big cities in Ohio fared worst -- Toledo at 1,738; Cleveland and Akron tied at 1,861; Cincinnati ranked 1,911th; and Dayton came in close to the bottom at 2,464.
The holidays may have been weeks ago, but the hangover has just begun.
Credit card bills showing how much you spent in December are starting to roll in this month, and many Americans are finding that their holidays were a little too jolly.
In 2013 and 2014, balances on credit cards increased around 4 percent in December, according to an analysis by credit reporting agency TransUnion on behalf of TFT, reflecting the rise in shopping around the holidays. That growth rate is more than four times the growth rate observed in non-holiday months.
If you're shell-shocked by the large number staring back at you from your credit card bill, consider these three strategies to pay it off as quickly as possible.
Related: Why Millions of Millennials Can't Get Credit Cards
1. Bite the bullet. The most responsible and fastest way is to just pay the entire balance off, even if you need to suspend contributions to your retirement account for a few months, says John Ulzheimer, a credit expert formerly with FICO and Equifax. The interest is just too expensive and can add up the longer you wait.
"The faster you can exhaust your holiday debt, the more enjoyable 2016 will be," he said. "You don't want to get statements in April with purchases from the holidays still on them."
2. Prioritize payments. If you can't pay off your credit card bills with one big check, then pay off the most expensive balances first, says Ulzheimer. Start with the credit cards with the highest interest rate--often store credit cards--and move your way down to ones with lower rates, throwing as much money as you can at the balance. But don't forget to pay more than minimum on the other cards, too.
"It's the lesser of a variety of evils because most credit cards have high interest rates," he says.
Related: Do Americans Have a Credit Card Problem Again?
3. Try a balance transfer. Another strategy is to transfer the balance to a card that offers a zero-percent interest rate for an introductory period like 12 to 18 months, says Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com. Consider the length of the intro period--will you be able to pay off the entire balance before the intro period expires? If not, know what the interest rate will be after the intro period lapses. Calculate any balance transfer fees to make sure the transaction makes financial sense. Also, don't forget to see if there are any deadlines for completing the balance transfer, Schulz says.
"There are a lot of quirks and rules with balance transfer cards," he says.
Budget advisers are bracing for droves of people struggling with credit card debt after a big December spend in Otago and Southland.
Paymark data for December revealed Southern shoppers put $199.4 million on credit cards in December, a 14.2% increase in Otago and a 14% rise in Southland compared with December 2014.
The regional increases were the two biggest in New Zealand.
Anglican Family Care director Nicola Taylor said people stopped visiting budget advisers at the Dunedin social services agency between mid-December and late January.
Because they are away spending, and in late January and early February they will come in their droves and they want us to work miracles.
The sharp increase in credit card spending was expected because most of the people seeking budgeting advice owned several maxed-out credit cards and store cards.
The Christmas marketing campaigns by companies from the start of November was irresponsible.
The disgusting campaigns of smiling parents and children surrounded by consumer goods prompted many people to make impulse purchases.
The advertisements exacerbated vulnerabilities and often made Christmas an unhappy and stressful time for many Dunedin families.
Dunedin Budget Advisory Service assistant manager Andrew Henderson said he was ''surprised to see the steep increase in credit card use in Otago and Southland.
He had hoped fewer people would be using credit cards after changes to the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act last year.
Acode of responsible lending ... puts more onus on the credit providers to make checks so they are not putting people into hardship by providing credit.
The budget service was usually quiet in December and January but busy in February.
Many people seeking advice had blown their budgets with Christmas and holiday spending and by getting their children prepared for another school year.
Debt on credit card and store cards featured heavily among those seeking advice, many paying interest rates of up to 28%.
People should make a purchase using a credit card only if they were confident they could pay the full balance every month, to avoid hefty interest payments.