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Watch out for credit card sinkholes this holiday season

There's something concrete about credit cards. They are made of hard plastic. They stand up to years of rigorous use. You could almost think of them as the pavement beneath your feet. The problem, of course, is that perception is not reality. Just like a sinkhole can suddenly open up the ground below us, it is possible to slip into a pit of credit card difficulty.

When that happens, it is good to know that there are ways to climb out of the depths, including filing for bankruptcy. Whether employing such a ladder to get back above ground is right for you is something worth speaking to an attorney about before things get too dire.

The holidays can be particularly hazardous times when it comes to money. In a flush of good cheer, it can be easy to bust the budget. And, of course, retailers and credit card companies are very willing to feed the urge. So, before the dawn of Black Friday, here are some common credit card traps Lisle-area residents might want to avoid.

Here's a scenario we probably have all been in. You hit the department store and as you check out, the cashier invites you to open a store credit account. "If you do, we can offer you 10 percent more off your purchase today," she says.

That might be OK, but only if you can pay off the balance at month's end. Otherwise, you might be saddled with a massive interest rate or find you've taken some kind of hit to your credit report. And since that 10 percent discount is only good today, you might spend more than you intended.

The other trap to be wary of is zero percent financing. You have to be sure you understand all the terms of the deal. Does the goose egg rate mean interest is waived or just deferred? If it expires after a set period of time, what will the rate be and will it apply retroactively to any remaining balance?

Keeping the holidays happy can be easier with wisdom and good budgetary discipline.

Source: Forbes, "2 Credit Card Traps To Avoid This Holiday Season," Nick Clements, Nov 16, 2015

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