Credit cards represent convenience. But at what cost?

Consumers often default to card with a high credit limit. Buy it now. Pay for it later. Debt grows with every swipe.

Not paying off the balances every month carries that debt over to the next billing cycle. Interest adds up making an item that was on sale more expensive than the original price. Fees and interest make the purchase anything but cost effective.

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Federal Reserve reveals that American households owe an average of $16,425 in credit card debt or a collective total of $1 trillion. That represents a six percent increase from the previous year and a 10 percent rise since 2013.

The average interest rate on that debt is 18.76 percent, representing $1,292 annually per household.

Among age groups, debt rises as people get older, peaking at the 35 to 54 demographic and continuing for those in their seventies. However, consumers over 75 enjoy the lowest total average of debt in any age group.

Because younger generations are earning significantly less income than their parents did at their age, their debt load is smaller and comparable to consumers in their mid to upper seventies. Conversely, members of Generation X carry significant debt, primarily because they lost the highest percentage of their wealth in the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008.

A positive relationship exists between income levels and credit card debts. The more money consumers make, the higher credit card balances they carry. However, the continued rate of growth in credit card debt often exceeds the average increase in household income.

While 60 percent of American households pay off their balances every month, a significant number of consumers continue their dependence on their credit cards. For many, they can fund their lifestyle, if not their dreams. However, when the balance comes due following their financial feast, they may be facing future financial nightmares.