It’s easy to portray credit cards in a positive light, noting that, as long as you only spend the same amount that you earn, buying things on a credit card and then paying it off at the end of the month is no different than buying things with the cash from your bank account. In fact, a lot of people use this logic and then use cards to take advantage of the rewards — like a cash-back program — that they wouldn’t get with cash.

In theory, this does make a lot of sense. You can find examples of people who make it work. But studies have shown that all things are not as equal as they would appear.

These studies have determined that spending levels are higher when paying with a card than with paper money. In some cases, people would spend twice as much. This makes it very easy to get into massive debt quite quickly.

Why does this happen? Some of it is just the act of handing over cash, which makes you realize how much you are really giving up. Swiping a credit card doesn’t feel the same, and you’re more willing to let the charges rack up.

On top of that, buying on a credit card sometimes makes you feel like you can put off dealing with it for another day. If you don’t have the money in hand, you can’t buy. If you don’t have to pay the card until the end of the month, though, it’s easy to decide that you’ll figure it out then — even when you know that you’re not going to have the money then, either.

If you do get into financial trouble, consider bankruptcy and your legal options.