There used to be a time when consumers strode into shopping malls, pockets bulging with credit cards.
At the first sign of a sale, they would flick out their plastic like old-west gunslingers reaching for a sixshooter.
Well, the party's over, says Cardtrack, a Frederick, Md., newsletter. Cardholders now are charging less and are having ++ more trouble paying off their bills.
Consider these recent findings:
* On average, cardholders will pay an extra $25 in interest charges this year because of higher balances.
* Monthly payments are more than 30 days late on about 5.8 percent of the nation's 100 million bank-card accounts, an 18 percent increase over last year.
As you save, be wary of inflation. If you had $1 million that earned no interest, its spending power would shrink to $50,000 in 35 years, assuming an annual inflation rate of 10 percent, says "The New IRA Handbook" (MCI Publishing, Chicago).
The current inflation rate is about 4 percent. So if your bank is paying 5.5 percent, after federal and state taxes are paid on your earnings you actually could lose ground.