Research and Statistics

What if Americans paid the national debt with plastic?


If every American pitched in and helped pay the national debt with his or her own credit card, just how much would it cost each of us? This calculator will tell you

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Think your credit card debt is bad enough already? Try tacking on your share of the U.S. national debt.

The nation’s debt, which is currently frozen at an eye-popping $14.3 trillion, is so high that the country has hit its so-called “debt ceiling,” Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner announced on Monday. That means that Congress or the Treasury have to take measures — including possibly raising the debt ceiling even higher — to keep the U.S. from defaulting on its obligations. In a letter to Congress, Geithner said the government had taken some temporary measures to keep itself afloat until about Aug. 2, 2011, but after that, the nation would likely default. Geithner warns that the ramifications of a national default would be catastrophic for the U.S. and world economy, though some in Washington are skeptical of how big the impact would really be.

All of this made us wonder: If every American pitched in and helped pay the national debt with his or her own credit card, just how much would it cost each of us? We created the calculator at the bottom of this page to help find the answer. You can even customize it with your own credit card’s APR to find your total bill.

And if you’re feeling generous, once you’ve done your calculations, you can actually make a donation to help pay down the national debt at You can even put your contribution on your credit card.

See related:Secretary Geithner’s letter to Congress, 8 steps to reducing credit card debt, 8 things you must know about credit card debt

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