The average American has at least one credit card and carries a balance of more than $1,700. Faced with mounting minimum payments on their cards and shrinking monthly budgets, what is a consumer to do? Answer: Call your credit card company and negotiate a lower interest rate.

Credit card delinquencies are mounting with the downturn in the economy. (Interestingly, the two states with the highest foreclosure rates, Nevada and Florida, also lead the nation in credit card delinquencies.) Through July, the annualized rate of credit card charge-offs rose 33 percent compared to last year, according to Moody’s Investor Services. At the same time, the Payment Rate Index, which reflects borrowers’ ability and willingness to repay credit card debt, dropped.

Faced with increasing delinquencies, credit card companies are more willing than ever to lower your interest rate to make sure you’ll be able to keep current. The last thing they want is for you to fall behind on your payments and have another past-due account on their books.

[Ed. Note: Protecting your wealth is about more than investing. It means keeping your debt under control, too.

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