Image: Customer Giving Clerk Credit Card © Fuse, Getty Images

It seems as if everyone in the United States is carrying some type of plastic these days. Whether you are a college student who needs a credit card for the first time or an adult in a career who has used one for years, buying on credit is part of our economy and culture. Even children are using debit cards these days.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, an estimated 183 million people had credit cards at the end of 2011.

How you use your credit and debit cards can substantially affect your financial well-being. You don't want to discover that your credit score has dropped or that your debit account is overdrawn.

We rounded up a few of the most outrageous credit and debit card stories the Internet had to offer. Let them serve as a reminder to take the necessary steps to protect your plastic -- and your finances.

Through-the-roof interest rates

  • Type of card: Credit
  • Horror story: Outlandish interest rates -- 79.9% to be exact

We've all heard of people who have high interest rates on their credit card because they have bad credit. However, not many people can say they got a 79.9% interest rate without any warning. According to CNN Money, Toni Riss from Texas discovered she would be paying a lot more in interest than she originally expected. On top of that, she said, when she tried to cancel the card, it took more than six months to finalize.

No credit cards for dead people

  • Type of card: Credit
  • Horror story: You are alive, but your credit report says you have passed away.

It's not every day that a person is denied a credit card for being dead. That is what happened to Rita Katz when she tried to apply for a Gap credit card, according to Bankrate.com. Apparently, there was some confusion, because Rita was clearly alive and ready to make some serious purchases.

Waitress's skimming scam

  • Type of card: Credit
  • Horror story: Waitress takes your tab, your credit card information and a pretty nice tip.

There are times when you can't decide how much you are going to tip, but to some unethical waiters or waitresses it doesn't matter, especially the ones who use your credit card information to ring up their own gratuities, according to AOL. The lessons: Be careful when you hand over a credit card, and always check your statements for unexpected charges.

Paperless billing confusion

  • Type of card: Credit
  • Horror story: Paperless bill payment causes confusion about due dates.

Everyone wants the easiest bill pay option. For this reason, paperless billing has become the new thing to do. It's quick, easy, environmentally safe and more secure than mail. You would think there are no problems with these types of bill payment options. Just make sure you are aware of your institution's "terms and conditions" and the correct due date for payment. You don't want to end up thinking your payment is due on the wrong day and then be late. That could cost you a lot in late fees and even higher interest rates.

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$71 for McDonald's

  • Type of card: Debit
  • Horror story: Overdrafts can make a small purchase enormous.

You probably wouldn't be too happy about it if you learned that your child had spent $71 at McDonald's. She might claim it was her own money to spend, but there is no excuse for spending like that. Yet that's what happened with one 18-year-old. Little did she know that a McDonald's purchase of less than $5 would turn into a $71 tab, thanks to overdraft and other fees, according to Business Insider. Always stay on top of your budget to ensure that you don't overdraw your account -- and teach your children to do the same.

With luck, you've never been in a situation like these and never will be. It takes vigilance to protect yourself from credit card fraud and avoid fee traps. Be sure you always read and understand the terms and conditions of your cards, pay your bills on time and keep a close eye on your statements. It takes only one little mishap to get yourself in serious trouble. And if you don't look out for your financial well-being, no one will.

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