The Federal Reserve recently released data that indicated that American’s borrowing habits are excessive whether the economy is booming or hurting. Over the past decade, credit card debt has gone from $1.02 trillion in 2008, down to $835 billion in 2011 and back up to $935.6 billion by the end of last year.
Americans between the ages of 18 and 65 have an average of $4,717 in credit card debt. The average interest rate is 15 percent, according to creditcards.com. Therefore, if a credit card user makes a minimum payment of $189 per month, it will take more than ten years to pay off a debt of $4,717. Ultimately, the debtor would pay a total amount of $22,869, a cost of $18,155 for a very small loan.
A study released by the Boston Fed examined American credit card debt and found that the biggest reason Americans have such high debt is due to the availability of credit.
The study also showed that only 35 percent of credit card users do not carry a balance. This means they pay off their bill every month and only use their cards for convenience. The other 65 percent of credit card users are “revolvers,” meaning they do not pay their balance in full so the debt revolves. Revolvers tend to see credit limit increases as an invitation to spend more.
Many credit card users are reeled in when companies offer free teaser years that come with as much as $600 worth of miles or hundreds of dollars in cash back as incentives to sign-up and spend. Studies show that credit card debt typically starts in a debtor’s 20’s. Often times the debtor is not earning very much at the time and the availability of funds through credit essentially amounts to extra wealth and reduces the need to save. Although the habit typically starts early in adult life, credit card debt follows most Americans into middle, even old age.
Keep in mind; there are incentives to breaking your credit card habits. According to the Federal Reserve, paying off your credit cards comes with a return that averages 14 percent. This means simply paying off your credit card debt is the best investment you can make.
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