Consumer credit card debt statistics – an indicator of spending trends and household financial health – support the notion of a rapidly improving economy, which is further evidenced by the fact that an impressive 321,000 jobs were added in November while the unemployment rate hovers at 5.8%. The credit card charge-off rate, at 2.89%, is at the lowest point since 1985, you see, which indicates that consumers have the financial wherewithal to remain current on their obligations. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that while economic gains are making consumer spending habits sustainable for now, our attitudes toward debt have not improved since the Great Recession. Our credit card performance has deteriorated on a year-over-year basis for four straight quarters, punctuated by a $15.94 billion increase during Q3 2014. This represents a 35% increase over Q3 2013 and a 25% rise relative to Q3 2012. Furthermore, we now project that U.S. consumers will incur a total of more than $60 billion in new credit card debt by the end of 2014, which would be an increase of at least 55% over 2013.