The improving economy has led some consumers to behave in ways they may not have in the past few years, and this change was recently reflected by a significant uptick in nearly all types of borrowing in May.
The total amount of credit card debt held nationwide surged 9.3 percent in May, rising to $856.5 billion from the previous month’s total of just $849.9 billion, according to the latest monthly statistics released by the Federal Reserve Board. That followed a 1.1 percent increase in the previous month which saw credit card debt rise by just $800 million across the country. That, in turn, may be an indicator that consumers are generally feeling better about their personal finances these days.
They are also generally paying about the same for these accounts, the report said. While the average interest rate across all credit card accounts ticked up slightly to 11.95 percent from the 11.93 percent seen at the end of the first quarter, that charged to accounts actually assessed interest slipped considerably, to 12.76 percent from 13.01 percent, during the same period.
At the same time, borrowers also generally took on far more in the way of non-revolving credit, meaning installment loans such as those for education or auto financing, excepting mortgages, the report said. This type of borrowing rose 7.9 percent to more than $1.98 trillion, up from slightly less than $1.97 trillion a month earlier. Consequently, the total amount of money owed to lenders on all non-mortgage accounts rose to nearly $2.84 trillion, an increase of 8.3 percent.
Why Americans’ Credit Card Debt Is Rising
Perhaps not surprisingly, one of the biggest reasons for this uptick in borrowing was once again that consumers had to lean heavily on student loans issued by the federal government to finance their educations, the report said. In all, the amount owed only on this type of account rose to $566.1 billion, from the previous month’s $562.3 billion, and is now up nearly $40 billion since the start of the year.
Consumers taking on additional balances may want to be extra careful in doing so, as this can significantly increase their financial burdens and potentially diminish their credit ratings, which in turn could serve to make borrowing more expensive and therefore harder to deal with in the future. This is particularly true of credit cards, which tend to have far higher interest rates than most other accounts.