Walking down Trade Street in downtown Charlotte, North Carolina, Melinda Graham spied the Bank of America football stadium a few blocks away. “That’s all my money, right there,” said Graham, one of hundreds who marched on B of A and Wachovia one day last October to demand a 10 percent cap on credit-card interest rates.
A few minutes later, Graham noticed a pair of brown leather stilettos on a sharply dressed young woman. “Look at her shoes,” she urged her 21-year-old daughter. Then she looked at me, who had just asked her about her credit-card debt: “I’m a shoe fanatic,” she admitted.
Graham can no longer afford such luxuries. She started cutting her spending after her debt topped $8,000, which is about average for the nearly half of all Americans who carry a credit -card balance. She used to go to the cinema once a week or rent half a dozen movies to watch over the weekend, but not these days. “I can’t do the things I like doing, like getting away on the weekend,” she said. “I buy only the necessities.”