As the Federal Reserve reports an uptick in borrowing nationwide, a poll of Utah residents indicates their credit-card spending isn't as bad as it could be.

More than half of Utah residents surveyed by Dan Jones & Associates said their credit-card debt has held steady or gone down in the past year — and 11 percent of respondents said it has gone down substantially.

The Deseret News/KSL-TV poll also found half of the 404 adults surveyed said they had no credit-card debt — a number mirroring national numbers.

However, about a tenth of the Utahns surveyed in the poll said they've charged more than $5,000, with 6 percent owing more than $10,000.

Others carry smaller balances. One in every six adults said they owe under $1,000 to credit-card companies, and one in five owe between $1,000 and $5,000.

The poll, commissioned by the Deseret News and KSL-TV, was conducted April 21-24 and has a margin of error of 5 percent.

But do these self-reported numbers accurately reflect credit-card debt in Utah?

"I felt they were unusually honest in today's world. With so many people cheating, people have been very, very reluctant to talk about any of their finances, and I think they were very open, very willing to discuss," Jones said. "But was there some fudging? I don't know."

In the first question about credit-card debt, half of the people surveyed said they have none. But when asked what has happened to their credit-card balance in the past year, far fewer — 31 percent — said they had no debt.

Jones says that doesn't necessarily signal a lie, as they had to voluntarily say they had no debt in the second question.

The poll results reflect what Zions Bank executive vice president of marketing and communications Rob Brough sees in his business, which offers credit cards.

"I'm encouraged by those numbers, and I do think that Utah consumers are wise," he said. "Actual numbers I've seen, the average typical credit-card holder (nationally) has nine-plus credit cards and carries about $8,500 in debt."

Nationally, consumer credit balances, including car loans and credit cards, are on the rise. They reached $2.56 trillion in March, about a $15 billion increase from February, the Federal Reserve reported this past week. That rise comes at an annual rate of 7.2 percent. Revolving credit — credit cards are an example — increased for the month at a 7.9 annual rate, and accounted for $957 billion, or about 38 percent, of the total.

The report doesn't break out the nation's average credit-card debt — which is tough to pin down.

About half of households have no credit cards or pay off balances every month, the Federal Reserve has reported.

Some groups have used Fed numbers and U.S. Census Bureau household data to calculate an average $9,000 or so in credit-card debt per household.

MSN Money's Liz Pulliam Weston, however, says only about 8 percent owe that much, and cites a $2,200 median balance per household.

Dan Jones & Associates, in conducting the poll, said Utah's average credit-card debt was $4,800, quoting plasticeconomy.com numbers gleaned from people who use TrackCards to track their credit-card spending.

Experian credit reporting agency has a state-by-state average credit-card debt report, updated in March and based on a nationwide sampling of 2 million consumer credit files. It doesn't reveal a national average. But it shows the biggest credit-card debt in Alaska, with an average $8,200 owed, and Mississippi at the bottom, averaging $5,400. Utah was about $6,300, or 17th lowest in the nation, according to Experian's files.


E-mail: jtcook@desnews.com