Americans Still Wrestling with Credit Card Debt

Credit card debt has been at the center of the economic crisis with both credit card companies and consumers trying to determine the right amount of debt each can responsibly take on. At the beginning of the recession, consumers seemed to be accumulating more credit card debt as observed by the drop in the percentage of credit card holders who say they usually pay the full balance due on at least one credit card. However, starting in early Spring, consumers began to strongly reject credit card debt as the percentage of card holders paying the balance in full began to rise. In the 8 months between March 30 and October 26, 2009 the percentage of credit card holders paying off the balance of at least one of their credit cards rose to 53% from 48%, a relative increase of 10%.

That doesn’t mean that credit card holders have declared war on debt all-together. In fact, throughout the economic recession, credit card holders have had their ups and downs when it comes to their comfort with debt. Between February 9 and April 6, for instance, consumers became increasingly uncomfortable with debt as the share of credit card holders who said they agree a lot with the statement “I don’t like the idea of being in debt” rose from to 62%, a 95-week high, up from 58%. In the two months immediately following though, consumer attitudes reversed indicating Americans were becoming more comfortable with debt again as the share of credit card holders who don’t like the idea of debt dropped 13% to a 95-week low of 54% reached on June 8.

As if that weren’t enough of a roller-coaster, consumer discomfort with debt rose 13% again between June 8 and September 14 when at which time 61% of credit card holders agreed a lot that they didn’t like the idea of being in debt.

Consumer attitudes towards debt will surely continue to change as economists, politicians and others forecast the future of the economy. But regardless of Americans’ attitudes towards debt, consumers, for now, are playing it safe by minimizing the balances on their credit cards.