The fear of overwhelming credit card debt is driving many Americans to hand their equity back to mortgage lenders in the form of "cash-out" refinances. Rather than generating cash to invest in the family's future or cover short term emergencies, cash-out refinances frequently serve as equity-draining transactions that only repay ("consolidate") short-term debts, such as credit card balances. Worse, the benefits of refinancing are often temporary, as homeowners build up additional new credit card debt and start the refinance process again.

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