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U.S. Credit Card Debt Reaches New High of $1 Trillion, New York Fed Reports

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
Aug 18, 2023

iStock-910061460 Credit Cards Score Debt Payment

Total household debt in the United States increased to more than $17 trillion in the second quarter of 2023, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York recently reported. Credit card debt reached a new high of more than $1 trillion.

More than two-thirds of Americans had a credit card in the second quarter, up from 59 percent roughly a decade earlier, the researchers found, according to The New York Times. Card balances were more than 16 percent higher in the second three months of this year compared with a year earlier.

“Compared to other debt categories this quarter, credit card balances saw the most pronounced worsening in performance, following a period of extraordinarily low delinquency rates during the pandemic,” the report read.

“It’s easy to become overwhelmed by credit card debt, and $1 trillion tells us that many Americans are making purchases with money they don’t necessarily have,” Ben Alvarado, executive vice president and director of core banking at California Bank & Trust, told the Times.

“One trillion dollars in credit card debt is staggering,” LendingTree Chief Credit Analyst Matt Schulz told The Washington Post. “Unfortunately, it is likely only going to keep growing from here.”

Inflation may be causing consumers to use credit cards to cover expenses, but the New York Fed sees “little evidence” so far of widespread financial distress among consumers. “Credit card balances saw brisk growth in the second quarter,” said Joelle Scally of the New York Fed’s Public Policy Research Division, who was quoted in the report. “And while delinquency rates have edged up, they appear to have normalized to pre-pandemic levels.”

Sixty percent of those who carry a balance on their credit card have been in debt for at least a year, a recent report from Bankrate found, and 47 percent of credit cardholders do not pay off their balance in full every month.

Bankrate also found that 72 percent of cardholders with credit card debt and annual household incomes of $100,000 or more have been in debt for at least a year. Seventy percent of households with credit card debt and incomes between $80,000 and $99,999 have been in debt for more than a year, as have 63 percent for people earning between $50,000 and $79,999, and 53 percent of those making less than $50,000.

Credit counselors are experiencing an uptick in calls, many of them due to the end of student loan payment suspension in October, the Times reported. Inquiries from people citing student loans as a reason for their calls to one such credit counseling agency, GreenPath Financial Wellness in Farmington Hills, Mich., rose by 50 percent in July from June. The agency expects a further increase next month, when loan services start notifying borrowers of their repayment obligations.

One-third of households with student debt expected their monthly loan payments to be at least $1,000 when payments resume in October, a recent survey by financial services company Empower found.

Outstanding student loan debt stood at $1.57 trillion in the second quarter of 2023, the New York Fed reported. 

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