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Consumers Once Again Cut Credit Card Balances

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Once again in June, the overall amount of money owed by consumers to their various lenders increased, but at the same time, Americans were able to slash their credit card balances.

The total amount owed on credit card debts slipped 5.1 percent in June to a total of $864.6 billion from May’s $868.3 billion, according to the latest consumer credit report issued by the Federal Reserve Board. May’s total was a 10.5 percent increase from the $860.8 billion observed in April.

Credit card balances have been fluctuating considerably for much of the year, the report said. After slumping between December 2011 and January 2012, and then holding steady in February, balances have alternated between rising and falling from March to June. However, even the diminished levels seen in the latest statistics are still well above the level seen in June of last year, which stood at just less than $857.1 billion. Currently, outstanding credit card balances are at levels not seen since late 2010.

Meanwhile, another kind of borrowing, defined by the Fed as nonrevolving credit – all installment loans not including mortgages – has been rising for some time and did so once again in June, the report said. This type of credit jumped 7.2 percent to a total of more than $1.71 trillion, up from $1.7 trillion in May.

This change was once again largely driven by significant increases in borrowing for federal student loans, which rose to $470.7 billion from $464.9 billion, the report said. Even at the end of last year – just six months prior to the latest statistics – education financing balances controlled by the federal government totaled just $417.4 billion.

Overall, consumers owed nearly $2.58 trillion in both revolving and non-revolving credit as of the end of June, up 3 percent from the slightly more than $2.57 trillion in May, the report said. Further, that’s from just less than $2.51 trillion at the end of last year.

Some experts believe added consumer borrowing might be a positive sign that Americans are once again feeling better about their finances. However, others note that additional credit card debt and a greater reliance on student loans might actually be a sign of stress, and that many are using this financing to cover essential costs.

Image: The Consumerist, via Flickr

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