Credit card use is down, but long-term debt is still growing fast
According to a recent report by The Vanguard Group, consumer credit increased only $8 billion in March, the smallest monthly increase in eight months.
The report shows that despite significant slowing in credit card spending — the biggest decrease since July 2012 with a drop of $1.7 billion — other more long-term forms of debt such as student loans and automobile debt almost tripled from 2004 to 2012. Education debt is the only type of debt to continue rising through the Great Recession and is quickly approaching the $1 trillion mark.
The study reports that the likely reasons for the slowdown in short-term debt include the pinch of tax increases, including the halt of the 2 percent Social Security payroll tax holiday, and concern for a looming economic slowdown.
By combining both credit card and nonrevolving debt, the study shows that consumers have about $2.8 trillion in total installment credit debt.
In comparison, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported in February 2013 that mortgage debt in the U.S. has reached $8.03 trillion.