Credit card lenders' tactics are pushing thousands of Wearsiders into trouble with debt, Sunderland's Citizens Advice team has warned.
Caseworkers at Citizens Advice Sunderland say they have helped more than 1,000 people with debt issues - 30% of them credit card-related - since the team moved into their new offices in Waterloo Place in the city centre last year.
The charity is warning people to be cautious over the tactics of credit card lenders, and said often clients got into credit card debt without being aware of the dangers until their circumstances changed.
Redundancy, bereavement, and benefit cuts are among the common reasons people become unable to manage their repayments - with default charges added to every missed monthly payment, and interest added to the overall cost.
Luke Morrison, a money advice caseworker at the Citizens Advice Sunderland, said clients often find it difficult to maintain these increased payments and fall further behind.
Mr Morrison also bemoaned the practice credit card lenders upping customers' credit limits without their consent, which they are legally entitled to do.
He urged people to reject such extensions if they were worried they may borrow more than they can afford to pay back.
“Irresponsible lenders are pushing people further into the red," he said.
“Research from national Citizens Advice’s shows that some credit card providers are extending people’s credit when they’re barely keeping on top of their minimum monthly repayments - which leaves them in a worse financial position.
"It’s really important that anyone who is struggling to pay off their credit card seeks help from us as soon as possible. We can help you to work out the best way manage your finances and how to make repaying your debt more manageable.”
Mr Morrison urged anyone struggling to manage their credit card repayments or debts to contact Citizens Advice Sunderland on its dedicated debt line on 0191 415 8998.
He said people can also call into the Waterloo Place office from 9pm to 4pm Monday to Friday to book an appointment with an adviser.