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To consolidate home-repair bills totaling over $12,000, Mr. Weatherspoon applied for a credit card with a low introductory interest rate of 4.5 percent. Before he knew it, the rate jumped to 28 percent.

Over the last eight years, Mr. Weatherspoon has paid the bank $15,000, yet reduced his principal balance by only $800.

John McCaslin can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes .com.