Consumers Piling Up Credit Card Debt

Consumers are on track to pile up almost as much new credit card debt this year as they didlast year, which was one of the worst years for accumulating debt, says the CardHub 2015 Credit Card Debt Study released Monday.

At the same time, consumers paid off more debt during the first quarter of 2015 than inprevious years, but that is not as good as it seems because they had a high debt level to start with, says CardHub, a consumer credit card research organization.

Consumers paid off $34.7 billion in debt in the first quarter, a 7 percent increase over the first quarters in both of the past two years. But the end of 2014 saw new debts of $57 billion for the year, the largest buildup of credit card debt in recent years. CardHub projects this year’s new debt will reach similar levels at $55.8 billion.

New debt was $40 billion in 2013 and $36.4 billion in 2012 .

Consumers started this year with an average household credit card debt of $7,177, the highest it has been in six years. Total credit card debt at the end of the first quarter was $831.2 billion, a decrease from the end of 2014 when it stood at $872.2 billion.

Despite the first quarter improvements in debt pay down, U.S. consumers’ credit card habits show signs of regression to pre-recession levels, CardHub says. “The second quarter of 2015 will therefore offer a lot of context to our current trajectory, enabling us to better authenticate trends that appear to be emerging,” says the report.

Credit card debt gives an indication of the U.S. economy and of consumers’ financial health, says CardHub.

Karen Demasters

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