An important change in credit card statements now makes room for the inclusion of the time it will take you to pay off debt if you make only the minimum payment. This bit of information is provided along with the payment due date, minimum payment and outstanding balance.

Of course, it should be easy for any consumer with a calculator to find out this information, but most credit card holders choose not to. There’s nothing like cold hard facts to wake you up to the reality of credit card mismanagement.

Credit card providers work double time to get and keep you in debt because it is profitable for them. Your billing statement is another trap that unwary cardholders need to watch out for. Whip out your latest statement and see how the following methods are meant to keep you in debt.

The Minimum Payment

Open any bill other than your credit card statement and you’ll see that the amount due is equal to the total owed. Credit card providers “helpfully” let you pay a minimum of 2% of the total amount owed to satisfy your payment requirements. Wake up! They’re not trying to be nice to you. Paying the minimum means you’ll have to pay them more.

Consumers should know this, but many stubbornly continue to pay only the minimum payment. The truth is that if your credit card provider only included the amount owed on the statement, you would most likely pay more. The anchoring effect of the minimum payment drives consumers to pay just the minimum or slightly more.  This provides a win-win scenario for the lender.

Available Credit

You’ll also see an area on your statement designated for your available credit. This number is one you can easily figure out using your fingers and toes, yet your credit card helpfully places it within view on your statement. This tactic –called the framing effect – frames your debt in a way that forces your mind to focus on what you have available rather than on the amount you owe.

How many times have you breathe a sigh of relief when you see a high available balance on your statement? The available credit does not take away the interest charges, the amount you have to pay back, and the fact that using too much will have a negative impact on your credit score. Let the amount you owe fill your thoughts when you’re on your next shopping spree because you might be falling into a lenders’ trap when you focus on the available credit.

Convenience Checks

Convenience checks are downright evil – there’s no better way to say it. They are conveniently enclosed in your statements, and lenders lead you to believe that there are no implications for using them. Read the fine print and you’ll see that those convenient checks are as convenient as a slap in the face.

The terms of use are no different from swiping your credit because you’re drawing on your line of credit. But these checks are even worse in that your withdrawal is treated like a cash advance, so the interest rates are higher than normal credit card transactions. Lenders supply this information somewhere in the fine print, but it’s up to conscientious consumers to go looking for it.

Some providers even charge card holders an upfront fee of 3-4% of the value of check for the convenience. That check doesn’t seem so convenient now, does it?

Don’t be lazy and uninformed. Recognize how much those convenience checks are costing you, and rip them up the moment they arrive.

Beat lenders at their own game

Start by spending only what you can afford to pay off in full every month. If that is not possible for you, get a credit card with a low interest rate. Keep track of the amount owed and make it your goal to pay it off in the fastest possible time. Finally, you need to back away from convenience check because they’re not worth the extra costs.