Americans are using plastic like never before. According to the Federal Reserve, credit card debt hit the $1 trillion mark last year. This level has not been reached since the Great Recession was approaching in 2008.
This shows an increase in personal spending and a boost for the economy in the U.S., where consumers make up around 70% of the activity. According to Fed data that came out on Friday, there was an increase of 16% on credit card balances from 2012 and 6% from 2015. Consumers reduced spending during the recession resulting in falling card balances.
Preliminary numbers, which could change, show that the $1 trillion credit card debt total was reached at the end of February.
Matt Schultz, CreditCards.com’s senior industry analysts stated that delinquencies are still very low even though credit card debt is increasing quickly. Most recent figures indicate only a 2.3% delinquency rate, which is down dramatically from the 6.8% peak during the recession in 2009.
He did caution however, that the rate of nonpayment is starting to go up. Schultz said that many Americans are controlling their debts fairly well. However, with the increasing debt and rising interest rates, there will be problems in the near future and he expects another increase in the nonpayment figure later on in this year.
Today the interest rates on credit cards are comparatively low at 13.9% for the average card holder. New credit cards sign ups have a rate of about 15.7% and the Feds are expected to increase interest rates, which will also result in increasing credit card rates.
Households that carry excessive debt are like a ticking bomb for the health of the economy in the near future. Student loan debts are even more of a burden than credit cards.
One-third of credit card balances are fully paid off before the user incurs any charges, according to David Robertson, a Nilsen Report publisher that tracks debt on credit cards. Student loan debt has reached $1.4 trillion, is fully subject to interest charges and only a small portion of it paid off.
Credit card debt is easier to retire because they are lower compared to other major forms of debt. In 2016, the average U.S. household had $16,748 in credit card debt and $49,905 in student loan debt. Mortgage debt on average was $176,222 and auto loan debt was at $28,948.
Card debt is more evenly distributed over more people compared to most other kinds of debt. According to Nilsen figures 157 million Americans had outstanding credit card debt at the end of 2016, compared to 44 million having student loan debt.