US Credit Card Debt Takes Aim at $1 Trillion

It’s taken a little longer than originally estimated, but the total amount of U.S. consumer credit card debt is about to reach $1 trillion. At the end of last year, U.S. credit card debt stood at $980 billion, just missing a prediction that the $1 trillion mark would be reached in 2016.

The average American household increased its credit card debt by 5% to $7,996 compared with the second quarter of last. In the fourth quarter of 2007, household credit card debt averaged $8,461, the highest ever.

American consumers hit the pause button in the first quarter of 2015, and actually paid down their credit card debt by $31.5 billion, reducing the total outstanding to $940 billion when charge-offs are added in. In the second quarter, however, Americans borrowed another $33 billion on their credit cards, adding back more than they paid off in the first quarter.

Credit card debt is currently higher than it’s been since the end of 2008 when Americans owed $983.9 billion. U.S. credit card debt totaled $936.1 billion at the end of the second quarter. If that pace continues through the second half of the year, U.S. credit card debt will reach $1 trillion by the end of 2017, according to researchers at WalletHub.

Americans added $87.2 billion to credit card debt last year, most of it in the second half of the year. Credit card debt rose by $80 billion, following the same pattern we’re seeing this year — in the first quarter of 2016 Americans paid down nearly $27 billion in credit card debt before adding $34 billion to the total in the second quarter.

To say the WalletHub researchers are concerned is, perhaps, an understatement:

So it’s not a question of whether consumers are weakening financially, but rather how long this trend toward pre-recession habits will last and just how bad it will get.

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