Credit card debt statistics can reveal a lot about the financial health of the average American household. And, according to CardHub’s Q1 2016 Credit Card Debt Study, Americans’ recent behavior reflects pre-recession behavior.
The study, which looks at data from the Federal Reserve, finds that Americans repaid just $26.8 billion in credit card debt during the first quarter of 2016 – the smallest first-quarter pay down since 2008 and 25% below the post-recession average.
“With the global economy in flux and debate raging over the timing of Federal Reserve rate hikes, data that speaks to the financial health of the average American household can be quite telling,” the study states. “Credit card debt statistics, in particular, reflect consumer sentiment and can foretell overleveraging bubbles that may trigger constriction across lending markets.”
This first-quarter pay down covers just 38% of the “astounding” $71 billion Americans added to their tab in 2015.
As a result, CardHub is projecting that Americans will end 2016 with roughly $1 trillion in outstanding balances for the first time ever, which would bring the amount owed by the average indebted household to more than $8,500.
Not even during the period preceding the Great Recession did outstanding balances reach this level, according to the study.
During the first quarter, the average indebted household’s balance was $7,597 – which is just $831 below the tipping point CardHub identifies as being unsustainable.
The study finds that despite credit card debt levels trending significantly upward, charge-off rates remain near historical lows.
“With 8 of the last 10 quarters reflecting year-over-year regression in consumer performance, evidence is mounting to support the notion that credit card users are reverting to pre-downturn bad habits,” the study states.
The study finds that the data from first quarter of 2016 shares a lot of similarities with the first quarter of 2007, including the pay-down amount, its size in relation to the previous quarter’s build-up and the charge-off rate at the time.
“That is not good news for consumers, considering the financial turmoil that followed the last time around,” the study states.
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