Credit card debt can creep up on you.

You may initially decide to put certain expenses on a credit card merely as a cash-flow convenience. The intention you had was to pay the balance off each month so that you would not be charged interest fees.

Before you know it, however, the amount may have increased to a level where paying it off in full is no longer feasible. In this post, we will put this circumstance in context by discussing the recent decrease in the numbers of people who are able to pay off credit cards.

According to a recent survey, only a little over half (51 percent) of people with credit card debt have enough money in cash to pay off that debt in full. The survey was done by Bankrate.com.

Bankrate.com has been tracking this percentage since 2011. The current figure is the lowest that this tracking has seen.

Financial planners have long counseled people to build an emergency fund to handle’s life’s virtually inevitable contingencies. But many people do not have such a fund. Others — nearly 30 percent of Americans – have emergency funds that are exceeded by the size of their credit card debt.

The personal savings rate also has been going down. Financial analysts point to several factors for this, including lack of income growth and stubbornly high unemployment rates.

To be sure, as we discussed in our February 19 post, increases in consumer debt in the form of home loans or car loans may actually be a positive sign for the economy as a whole.

For many people, however, debt levels remain a real concern. And when the need for debt relief becomes acute, a bankruptcy filing continues to be a choice worth considering.

Source: CBS Money Watch, “Close to half of Americans have more credit card debt than savings,” Constantine Von Hoffman, Feb. 18, 2014