PhotoConsumers owe more than $1 trillion in credit card debt, but how that debt is managed can make the difference between getting ahead or living paycheck-to-paycheck.

Carrying a balance of $1,000 or less? Those payments can be manageable even with a modest income and the balance can be paid off with some sustained effort. What about $5,000? That gets a little harder.

When a credit card balance goes over $10,000, that’s when you can find yourself behind the 8 ball, depending on your income and other expenses. Assuming a 17 percent interest rate -- and the rate on many cards is higher -- the interest payments alone would be $141.66 a month, assuming you never paid anything on the principle.

Unfortunately, a growing number of consumers find themselves trying to juggle payments around a five-figure credit card balance. About one in six consumers with credit cards in the nation’s largest metro areas carry a balance of $10,000 or more, according to a new report from CompareCards.

Big spenders in Bridgeport, Conn.

According to the study Bridgeport, Conn., has the highest percentage of consumers with a $10,000 credit card balance. Researchers say most of the cities with the highest percentages of people with five-figure credit card debt are along the East Coast and West Coast. And it’s not low income households that have gotten in over their heads in plastic debt -- it's often the wealthiest cities that carry the biggest card balances.

About 23 percent of credit card holders in the Bridgeport metro area carry balances in excess of  $10,000. Nearly 2 percent of Bridgeport consumers owe more than $50,000 on their cards.

Virginia Beach is second on the list, with 20 percent of cardholders owing at least $10,000 on their cards. Washington, D.C. is third with just under 20 percent in the five-figure club. New York is fourth and Los Angeles rounds out the top five.

Less debt in the South

While the biggest borrowers tend to be on the coasts, the South has fewer credit card customers who owe $10,000 or more. In fact, five of the seven cities with the lowest percentage of cardholders with five-figure card debt were in the South.

Winston-Salem, N.C.; Greensboro, N.C.; Chattanooga; Knoxville, Tenn.; and Jackson, Miss., have high percentages of five-figure credit card debt, but none higher than 12.4 percent.

"When your credit card debt hits five figures, it's crushing, and it can consume your life. I know. I've been there," said Matt Schulz, chief industry analyst at CompareCards. "But if you're struggling with credit card debt, the worst thing you can do is nothing.”

Sometimes seeking advice from a non-profit credit counselor can be the first step toward getting out of debt. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) can put you in touch with a non-profit counselor in your area.

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