Question: How long would it take someone to pay off a credit card if they only pay the minimum amount due each month?

Answer: It will take longer than an entire lifetime -- if you're a gorilla. For us homo sapiens, it'll take about half a lifetime. It all depends on the size of the balance you're carrying on the card and the card's minimum percentage due. Most cards have a minimum due of between 1.5% and 2.5% of the outstanding balance. Let's say that you owe $4,500 on your card. If so, it'll take you about 44 years to pay it off -- and you'll end up paying a total of $17,000. Yowza. That's a pretty powerful demonstration of how vital it is to pay down your balance.

Think of credit card debt as the opposite of investing. Instead of earning, say, 10%, on your money, someone else (the credit card issuer) is earning that money from you. And credit card issuers aren't even content with 10% -- they frequently charge 15% to 20% or more in interest. Credit card debt is negative investing. Instead of building a pile of wealth by investing in companies such as Home Depot (NYSE:HD), Wrigley (NYSE:WWY), or Medtronic (NYSE:MDT), you're digging a deeper and deeper hole.

If you or someone you care about is mired in credit card debt, dig out from under it. You can do it -- many Fools have. You can hear from them yourself on our Credit Card discussion board, and learn more in our Get Out of Debt area. Our credit calculators are handy tools, too.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article.