These days, most Americans have access to much more money than their ancestors ever dreamed of. We all have lines of credit to thank for that.

Consider these statistics, compiled by Fool Dayana Yochim:

  • The state of borrowing in the U.S. is at an all-time high. The amount that Americans owe on loans for houses, cars, credit cards, and other purchases adds up to nearly 100% of their annual income after taxes, according to a BusinessWeek report. That's up from 75% in 1992, after the last recession ended. Today's average credit line is around $3,500, compared with $1,800 just 10 years ago.

  • Credit card issuers have more than $3 trillion of unused credit lines up for grabs. That's about $30,000 per family. If you have a decent history of managing credit, then you can easily tap into that line of credit at an interest rate of 5% or less over the current prime rate.

  • According to Fair, Isaac & Co. (FICO), the typical consumer has access to $12,190 on all credit cards combined. It says more than half of all people with credit cards are using less than 30% of their total credit card limit. As of mid-year 2002, according to (one of the best followers of the lending industry's goings-on), total unused credit lines for bank credit cards was $1.8 trillion.

Now that you're aware of all that may be available to you (no, you can't borrow all $1.8 trillion), read on in this article, where Dayana Yochim details all kinds of credit cards for all kinds of borrowers, describes bottom-fishing lenders, and discusses naughty borrowers. (Yikes!)

Note that with all this opportunity comes responsibility. Don't let yourself get carried away, spending what you can't afford to pay back. If you or someone you care about is mired in credit card debt, learn more in our Get Out of Debt area and in this special feature on credit card debt. Also, read these articles on how to improve your credit rating.

If you've got your personal finances under control and would like to make the most of money you'll be needing in the next few years, visit our Savings Center, where we offer you some special deals on interest rates.