Ah, the credit card.

Few other things seem remotely close for their ability to entice and later bring pain, to serve as both the vehicle for instant gratification and subsequent long-term woe.

The bottom line: What other mere piece of plastic has a consumer reveling at one moment for the purchasing freedom it offers and screaming shortly thereafter for debt relief?

A recent survey by the consumer-oriented financial services company Bankrate.com readily confirms the close and often perilous relationship that many Americans have with their credit cards.

Many persons across the country are not saving as much as they need to be putting away, states Bankrate, while at the same time they are spending more.

That is obviously not the prescription for a salutary outcome down the road.

The reason for the downward spike in savings is at least partially attributable to easily understood factors, states a Bankrate executive who notes flat income levels, high and enduring unemployment and the myriad expenses that a typical consumer faces.

The correspondingly high use of credit cards by many Americans seems less easily explained. Some people resort to card use out of dire necessity. Others might simply have strongly ingrained habits. Research shows that many people financed their recent holiday gift purchases with cards.

As most people know well, things can go south in a hurry with credit cards. Bankrate notes that almost half of all Americans now lack sufficient cash on hand to pay off their card debt.

It certainly bears mentioning that many people resort to card use only because they are driven to do so by compelling circumstances, such as the need to pay for essential items following a job loss or to procure emergency medical care.

In such a case, things can get out of hand and even insuperably difficult over time, with debt simply becoming unmanageable.

When that becomes a reality for an overburdened debtor, is it certainly useful to know that unsecured debt, such as credit card payment obligations, is dischargeable under federal bankruptcy laws.

An experienced debt relief and bankruptcy attorney can answer questions and provide aggressive and proven representation in any debt-relief matter.

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