U.S. consumers paid off nearly $35 billion worth of credit card debt in the first quarter of 2015, which is more than last year, but we still have a long way to go to get out of the red.
Consumers’ payments increased 7% in the first quarter year-over-year, but outstanding credit card debt still stands at more than $831 billion in the U.S. — and we’re set to add a total of $55.8 billion in new debt this year. That’s according to a new study from personal finance website CardHub, which notes that consumers added a total of $57 billion in new debt last year.
While consumers paid off more debt in this year’s first quarter — a period when debt typically gets reduced, thanks to annual bonuses and tax refunds, the CardHub study says — the increase is likely more a factor of the ever-expanding debt load rather than a sign of increased collective fiscal responsibility. U.S. consumers have piled onto the overall outstanding debt tally every year since 2009, when we managed to decrease the credit card debt total by a relatively minuscule $875 million.
The CardHub study also points out that 2015 started off with the highest first-quarter average household credit card debt in six years — $7,177 per household — which suggests most consumers need to improve their debt-management techniques. CardHub’s suggestions along those lines include sticking to a budget, building an emergency fund and targeting payments toward debt balances that carry the highest interest rates.