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Consumers Cut Credit Card Debt Again in April

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The amount of debt carried by consumers nationwide rose slightly in April, and was restrained significantly by Americans’ efforts to slash their credit card balances.

Nationwide revolving credit — the type of loan balance that can be subtracted from and added to from one month to the next, which is most commonly associated with credit card debt — fell 4.8 percent in April on a year-over-year basis to a total of $862.3 billion, according to the latest consumer credit statistics published by the Federal Reserve Board. That’s down from the $865.7 billion figure observed in March, following a 5.1 percent increase from the same month the prior year. However, the April total was still slightly higher than that seen at the end of February, when balances totaled $862 billion.

At the same time, the interest rates consumers paid on those accounts held steady, the report said. The rates for all credit card accounts held steady at 12.34 percent between February and the end of the first quarter, while those for accounts assessed interest stayed somewhat higher at 13.04 percent.

But even as consumers were more conscientious in slashing their outstanding credit card debt, they still increased the amount of installment loans they carried, the report said. Non-revolving credit — that is, installment loans not including mortgages, and typically made up largely of education and auto financing — rose once again in April, growing 7.1 percent from the same month in 2011 to a total of close to $1.69 billion. That’s up from the slightly less than $1.68 billion in March, and more than $1.64 billion at the end of last year.

As a consequence of the increases in non-revolving credit, consumers saw their total outstanding balances rise 3.1 percent overall on an annual basis, to a total of slightly more than $2.55 trillion, up from the roughly $2.54 trillion in March, the report said. However, this was also the smallest month-over-month increase observed in half a year, which may indicates that consumer demand for credit is shrinking overall.

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Consumers have generally been interested in cutting their outstanding credit card debt since the end of the recession, but experts noted that borrowing increased at the end of 2011 due to holiday gift purchases, and have not yet slipped back to levels seen prior to that point.

Image: Wonderlane, via Flickr

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