Why Do Americans Have $1 Trillion In Credit Card Debt?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It seems most of us haven’t learned our lesson when it comes to using credit cards.

Credit card debt in America hasn’t been this high since 2008. According to creditcard.com, the average American household is $9,600 in credit card debt.

Maybe it’s a weekend getaway, a three-figure dinner or a footwear upgrade, most of us have made a plastic splurge or two.

It’s a habit Minneapolis resident Germaine Benemile fell into a few years back.

“I’ll speak from my own personal experience, they get you while you are young,” she said.

Benemile says it can seem like “cheap money.”

“Then you get yourself in a bad situation and years down the line you are in $10,000 plus in credit card deb,” she said.

New data shows the average household is $9,600 in credit card debt. That amounts to $1 trillion nationwide, according to The Federal Reserve.

RBC financial advisor Jaime Hansen is not surprised, saying it’s not big purchases that are doing people in.

“It’s Starbucks, it’s ‘I need that extra pair of shoes,’ its paying for something at my dentist,” she said.

Hansen says she sees many people who are underemployed and don’t have full-time medical benefits.

“I think that they are using credit cards to fill that gap and then say at some certain point my income will increase or I’ll be fully employed or I’ll have this windfall…not necessarily,” she says.

As for those who pay all their monthly bills on the card to gain airline points or perks, Hansen says that they should look at their 6-month track record.

“If you haven’t [paid the bill] one or more times, than that’s not a solution that works for you,” Hansen said.

She recommends keeping just one card in case of emergency.

“We suggest having one credit card in case of an emergency, so if you are out and about or are on vacation, you have that if your rental car was in an accident and you need to make a payment or something happens where you need quick access to cash, that’s when we recommend having a credit card in your wallet,” Hansen said.

Two popular methods for paying debt down: (1) pay off the card with the least amount owed and work your way up, or (2) pay off the card with the highest interest rate first.

More resources can be found here.

More from Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield
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