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Credit Card Balances Inch Up Again

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Credit Card BalancesSince the end of the recession, millions of Americans have made significant strides in trying to reduce their debts, particularly with regard to their credit cards. More recently, however, balances held nationwide have fluctuated somewhat, with the most recent data showing a slight increase in April.

The total amount of consumer credit card debt held nationwide rose about 1 percent in April, climbing to a total of $849.8 billion, according to the latest report on consumer credit from the Federal Reserve Board. This came after a 1.3 percent decline in March that saw borrowing of this type dip to $849.1 billion.

Meanwhile, the amount borrowers with credit card debt paid in interest charges on those balances climbed when compared with the end of last year, the report said. The most recent statistics shows that the average credit card borrower paid an APR of 11.93 percent through the end of the first quarter, compared with 11.88 percent just three months earlier. The spike was even more notable with respect to accounts that were actually assessed interest charges during this time, as rates rose to 13.01 percent from 12.81 percent. However, these rates were still a mixed bag compared with those observed at the end of the first quarter of 2012, when they stood at 12.06 for all accounts and 12.96 percent for only those assessed interest.

At the same time, the amount of debt taken on for non-revolving balances — that is, installment loans not including mortgages — rose another 6.4 percent, continuing the trend of repeated increases for this type of credit, the report said. In all, consumers now owe a total of more than $1.97 trillion on these loans, up from slightly less than $1.96 trillion at the end of March.

This trend was driven, as it usually is, by jumps in borrowing for federal student loans, which moved upwards $1.5 billion in April to a total of $562.3 billion, the report said. However, depository institutions and credit unions also saw sizable upticks in the amount of non-revolving credit they issued.

Consumers’ willingness to take on more debts of all types may be the result of improving economic conditions leading them to feel better about their finances in general. Many have also seen their home prices rise considerably in the last year or more, which likewise may fuel positive feeling about their financial futures.

Image: Hemera

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