US Credit Card Debt Tops $1 Trillion for First Time

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It took a little longer than originally estimated, but the total amount of U.S. consumer credit card debt totaled $1.009 trillion at the end of 2017. At the end of the previous 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 6% to $8,600, compared with the end of 2016. In the fourth quarter of 2007, household credit card debt averaged $8,461, the previous high.

American consumers hit the pause button in the first quarter of 2017, and actually paid down their credit card debt by $38.6 billion, reducing the total outstanding to $911.6 billion when charge-offs are added in. In the second quarter, however, Americans borrowed another $35 billion on their credit cards, adding nearly as much as they paid off in the first quarter.

Americans added a record $927.2 billion to credit card debt last year, most of it in the fourth quarter, when the debt jumped by more than $50 billion.

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

Only four times in the past 30 years have we spent so much in a year. And in each of those prior cases, the charge-off rate – currently hovering near historical lows – rose the following year. There wasn’t nearly as much kindling on the fire, either.

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.

Visit the WalletHub website for more data and some tips from managing credit card debt.