4 tips for those struggling with credit card debt

(FOX19) - Millions of Americans struggle under a load of high credit card debt.

According to the U.S. consumer debt profile, the average credit card debt stands at $15,204.

Britt Scearce with Emery Federal Credit Union offers advice to Americans struggling with credit card debt.

1. If you don't make payments on time, late payments will hurt you . Your friends may forgive you if you pay them back a little late, but your credit card issuer will not. In addition to imposing big late fees, lowering your limit and charging penalty interest rates, your bank will report your delinquency to the credit agencies, and bring down your score significantly.

2. Maxing out your credit card CAN hurt you. One of the components of a credit score is a consumer's credit utilization. This is the ratio of the amount of debt to the total amount of credit extended. credit utilization is one of the most important factors in a fico score. To maximize your score, it's ideal to use as little of your available credit as possible  (20% or lower if you can).

3. Avoid getting  stranded with your ex's debt. Many couples manage their finances jointly and share credit card accounts. While this can work great when they are together, it can have disastrous consequences if they split up. If your ex is a joint account holder or even an authorized user on your account, you will be responsible for payment of his or her purchases. Failure to pay the bill will do serious damage to all joint account holders.

4. Closing your credit card accounts?  When credit card use appears to be a minefield, some cardholders may be tempted to just cancel all their accounts. But in fact, closing all of your accounts can also hurt your score. Canceling all of your cards will reduce the amount of credit you are extended while reducing your average credit history and both of these factors will lower your score.