7 On Your Side

Americans return to racking up credit card debt

Thursday, March 15, 2012

With the recession easing, it seems Americans are once again racking up credit card debt. We are saving more than we were before the recession and for a while we were paying down our debt, but now Americans are getting tired of all that.

You saw it last holiday season and I reported on it. Sales were up, way up as Americans went on a spending spree.

Well as it turns out that confidence, or over confidence, had actually started well before the holidays. A new study commissioned by Card Hub looks back at credit card use in 2011 and finds Americans had been stealthily racking up debt.

"During the holidays, as you point out, they definitely went crazy. But I would say that we looked at the previous quarters as well of 2011 and let's say in the first quarter, they paid down 25 percent less than they paid down the year before that," said Odysseas Papadimitriou.

Papadimitriou is the CEO of CardHub.com, a credit card website. He says last year's added credit card debt was nearly a third higher than the year before and 100 percent higher than in 2009. So what's a consumer to do? He says get real.

"Prior to the great recession, your spending was linked directly or indirectly to the bubble. No matter how much this economy improves, unless we get into another bubble, we cannot expect for your spending to go back to where it was," said Papadimitriou.

He is right and just because we have been in an extended economic downturn, does not mean we are going to get out of it anytime soon. So, you should keep saving and put together an emergency fund.

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Tags:
credit cards, shopping, recession, 7 on your side, michael finney
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