Credit cards have long been instrumental tools for Americans to pay for things and “organize” (in a way) their financial situation. At the same time, credit cards can be very risky tools, ones that trap the user in loops of debt that are only spurred on by massive interest payments and late payment penalties. In other words, as helpful as credit cards can be, when they are misused it is inevitable that the user will experience some difficult financial times.

This is especially important given the time of year, as millions of people all across the country start swiping their credit cards to get their loved ones and friends the perfect holiday gift. When you consider that the last quarter saw a slight rise in the number of Americans who were late on their credit card payments.

Financial experts say this was an expected outcome for the third quarter, as many families spend money on school supplies with the summer ending and the school year beginning. Even with the increase, the number of Americans who were late on their credit card payments is at some of the lowest levels over the past six years, a number likely aided by the fact that people are much more careful with their finances since the recession.

Ultimately, the point here is that given the season and knowing the risks that credit cards pose, just be careful when you decide to make major purchases with your card. And remember, if you do make a financial mistake, there are ways to learn from it and got out from under your debt. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing can help in this regard.

Source: Associated Press, “Credit card late payment rate rises slightly,” Alex Veiga, Nov. 20, 2013