For most Americans, it would take over a year to pay down their credit card debt. In the South, it would take even longer.
The typical American household needs about 13 months to pay down the average debt of $8,195, according to a recent analysis by CreditCards.com. And that's assuming you're being aggressive and putting 15 percent of your income toward your debt.
Those living in New Mexico have the highest credit card debt burden on average, though, with $8,323, meaning the typical resident needs 17 months.
Overall, southern states fared the worst in the recent analysis. CreditCards.com industry analyst Ted Rossman says it would also take people in Louisiana and West Virginia about 17 months to pay off the average credit card balance.
A significant reason for that is income, he says. The median household makes much less money in states like New Mexico, Louisiana, West Virginia, Alabama and Arkansas.
"Those states rank at the bottom for income, so it's just that much harder to get out of debt," Rossman says.
He adds that he sees a lot more variation in income levels than in debt levels, meaning that Americans are all racking up the similar amounts of credit card debt — it's just that some are earning more to offset it. Yet everyone, he says, should have an eye on the future.
Right now the economy is pretty good: "I know we're seeing some volatility in stocks of late and there are some worries that we might be headed for a downturn ahead, but really at the moment, we've been in a good stretch for a long time here." But even during an economic upswing, he says, people struggle to get out of debt, so it's important to make sure you can pay off what you owe whether the economy's doing well or not.
"If you're only making the minimum payment, which is typically 1 percent of the balance plus interest, you're going to be in debt for literally decades," Rossman says.
To see how that works, let's assume you have close to the national average of credit card debt, which is roughly $8,000. And you have it on a credit card with the average interest rate of 21 percent.
If you only pay the minimum, it will take you a whopping 23 years to pay off that debt. Plus, you'll likely have paid over $13,000 in interest alone.
"We want everybody to pay it off in full every month," Rossman says, though he knows that may not be feasible. In that case, he suggests, at least pay significantly more than the minimum.
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