One of the main reasons that credit cards lead to bankruptcy is that people will overspend on their cards. Technically, if they could pay off the balance at the end of the month — and if the card had no annual or monthly fee — they wouldn’t spend any more than they would with cash. It wouldn’t be a problem. But credit cards influence people to overspend, then they can’t pay them off and that’s when high interest rates kick in.

For instance, in one study, people who needed tickets to a basketball game were told one group could use cash only and another could use credit cards. To get better seats, the credit card group spent twice as much money.

Why does this happen? The biggest reason is that you can put off the payment. It doesn’t feel as real because you don’t really have to think about it until the end of the month. You also don’t actually see the money leaving your possession as you would when paying with cash, so it tricks your brain into thinking it’s all right to pay too much and figure it out later. These mental games allow you to overspend all month and then regret it only when that debt comes due in the end.

The problem is that many people wind up with significant debt before they get a handle on their spending. You may find that you don’t know how to get out from under it and get a fresh start. Make sure you take the time to look into all of your options.