Consumers in the U.S. added an additional $67 billion in credit card debt in 2018, an all-time record high, according to a new WalletHub study.
Outstanding credit card debt is at the highest point since the end of 2008, WalletHub reports, after reaching an all-time record high for a fourth quarter in 2018.
Consumers began 2018 owing more than $1 trillion in credit card debt and ended 2018 “$67 billion deeper in the hole,” the analysis states. They repaid $40.8 billion in credit card debt during the first quarter of 2018, representing the second-largest quarterly payoff recorded.
But consumers added nearly $108 billion in credit card debt over the next three quarters, the report states. The $58.1 billion in credit card debt added in the last quarter of 2018 was 35 percent higher than the post-Great Recession average for a fourth quarter.
WalletHub analysts project the trend to continue, estimating an additional $60 billion increase in credit card debt in 2019. It notes that since the end of the Great Recession, consumer performance has regressed on a year-over-year basis in six of every 10 quarters.
“Credit card debt statistics speak to the financial health of American households,” Alina Comoreanu, senior researcher at WalletHub, said. “They can also foreshadow over-borrowing bubbles, changes to lending standards, and other trends with the potential to impact our wallets.”
Despite this record amount of debt, 9 in 10 Americans say they manage their personal finances better than the federal government does, according to WalletHub’s national credit card survey.
The WalletHub report compares the amounts owed to credit card companies by U.S. residents living in more than 2,500 cities. More than half of the 10 cities with the largest debt increases are in California and Texas. Cities that paid down their debt the most were more geographically diverse.
Cities with the largest debt increases are Huntington Beach, Calif.; Denton, Texas; Springfield Ill.; Murreita, Calif.; Wichita Falls, Texas; San Mateo, Calif.; Germantown, Maryland; Greenville, N.C.; Newport Beach Calif.; and Hoover, Alabama.
WalletHub also released its 2019 Debt Survey, which highlights consumers’ feelings about over-borrowing, including the fact that 156 million Americans admit they go into debt for frivolous purchases.
Millennials are 35 percent more likely to go into credit card debt for frivolous purchases than adults older than age 45, according to the report. The report states that “millennials are four times more likely than baby boomers to agree to house arrest for a year in exchange for credit card debt freedom,” saying that most survey respondents said “they would do anything” to get out of credit card debt.
The average credit card debt per household, WalletHub calculates, was $8,788 in 2018 and $8,557 in 2017.
“There is a general resentment toward the way government uses funds,” Francis Reyes, an assistant professor of economics at Western New Mexico University, told WalletHub for the report. “But personal finances are not run better than the government. I think the main difference is the sense of control. People might think that they have a say on their personal finances, while they feel that they are not part of the process of deciding the allocation of resources at the federal level.”
WalletHub has been tracking credit card debt levels on a quarterly basis since 2010. The analysis is based on the latest data available from TransUnion and the Federal Reserve. The report states that quarterly changes in credit card debt levels include both the total amount outstanding and charged-off debt that is no longer on credit card companies’ books but consumers continue to owe.
WalletHub also provides tips for consumers on how to manage their credit card debt, highlighting areas to improve personal budgets, building an emergency fund, improving credit, among other suggestions. It provides information about the best balance transfer credit cards that currently offer zero percent APRs for the first 15-21 months with no annual fee, and balance transfer fees as low as zero.