Holiday debt grows clearer as bills arrive


Published: Sunday, January 2, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 1, 2005 at 11:54 p.m.

Facts

AT A GLANCE

Cardweb.com reported that for the five-week period ending Dec. 26, the overall retail payment card volume totaled $107.7 billion in the following categories: major credit cards - $70.5 billion; debit - $21.3 billion; and store credit cards - $15.9 billion.

The holiday spending spree is over, and some consumers soon will know just how much the 2004 gift-buying season really cost them when the credit card bills begin to arrive this month, or when they check out their current bank balance.
Cardweb.com, which tracks credit card and debit card spending, reported that for the five-week period ending Dec. 26, the overall retail payment card volume totaled $107.7 billion in the following categories: major credit cards - $70.5 billion; debit - $21.3 billion; and store credit cards - $15.9 billion. These amounts, which don't include spending for groceries, gas and travel expenses, represent an overall increase of more than 6 percent for the same period in 2003, according to Cardweb.com.
At least some of these consumers were spending themselves into a hole, and are now resolving to get their finances into shape.
But often, consumers just don't know where to turn for that help, according to Maureen Lendzion, vice president of marketing and education for the nonprofit Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Mid-Florida. Ocala-based CCCS of Mid-Florida, a United Way affiliate agency with satellite offices in Gainesville, Inverness, Lake City and Palatka, offers free budget and credit counseling and additional fee-based services, including a debt repayment program.
"Our calls will pick up in January and February, once people start getting their statements from their holiday spending," Lendzion said. "The actual holiday period is a slower time for us because people aren't yet ready to give up spending."
The majority of the agency's clients are people who simply need budget and credit counseling services.
"There are times when people have the ability to repay their debt on their own but are just not prioritizing. Only about a third of our clients need the debt repayment plan, where we negotiate a repayment plan with the creditor, at a lower interest rate. The client makes payment to us and we pay the creditor. Once a creditor is paid off, we apply the amount that was going to that creditor to a different creditor," she said.
Clients in the debt repayment program pay a $20 sign-up fee, and a monthly fee of $20 while they are in the program, Lendzion said.
For more information about CCCS of Mid-Florida's programs, call (800) 245-1865.
Doris Chandler can be reached at 374-5094 or chandld@gvillesun.com.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Comments are currently unavailable on this article

▲ Return to Top