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Recent new requirements by the federal government to charge larger minimum payments on credit cards may hurt service members and other consumers already struggling to pay their debts.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a federal agency that regulates banks and some credit card companies, recently passed new guidelines requiring credit card companies to charge an amount that includes outstanding fees, finance charges and at least one percent of the principal owed.

The purpose of the guidelines is to help consumers pay off their debts faster, but many may find it difficult to comply with the new standards.

"It's gonna cause them panic and cause them to go deeper in debt," said Arthur Lincoln, chief of Legal Assistance at the Judge Advocate General (JAG) at Fort Meade. The new federal requirements, said Lincoln, are liable to push many service members and other consumers to their financial limits.

Many service members, particularly those at the rank of E-5 and lower who are married, carry tremendous credit card debt - the average married E-5 has $20,000 in credit card debt alone, said Lincoln. This causes many young military families to live "hand to mouth," he said.

Unfortunately, bankruptcy is no longer an option for many Americans seeking relief from their debts due to more stringent bankruptcy laws which make it harder to file. "People are really in a pinch," Lincoln said. "They can't file for bankruptcy like they used to."

Financial debt can also cause trouble for service members who require secret security clearances. Investigators look for high debts and consider that a warning that someone might be susceptible to bribes, said Lincoln. "The more debt you have, the more potential you have to be bribed," he explained.

If service members are unable to pay the new credit card minimum amount, that debt will be carried to the following month. Lincoln suggested that service members consider taking the finance classes offered by Army Community Service to learn how to better manage their money. The legal assistance office at JAG also helps service members who need advice on filing for bankruptcy, contacting creditors to relieve debts and making a realistic budget. "We try to repair the damage," Lincoln said.

Editor's note: Information for this article was taken from www.cbsnews.com.

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