Americans are using their credit cards more than ever, resulting in record levels of debt—and raising concerns about potential economic problems in the future.
The Federal Reserve says revolving credit in November (which largely consists of credit card debt) hit $1.023 trillion, an $11.2 billion increase. That’s slightly higher than the previous record set in April 2008, right before the housing and credit bubbles burst.
We’re not getting any better at paying off those bills, either. Credit card delinquencies in the past year have jumped from 7% to 7.5%. That’s notably lower than the 15% rate hit before the financial crisis, but could be an early warning sign, say credit strategists.
The good news is both jobs and incomes are on the rise right now, which means a financial downturn isn’t imminent. UBS Credit Strategist Stephen Caprio tells USA Today that the ratio of credit card debt to U.S. gross domestic product is about 5%, compared with 6.5% in 2008.
But, he cautions, a turn in either the labor market or overall economy could make the issue of credit card debt a major one.