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Household Debt Edged Upward at End of 2015

Credit Card Data, Credit Cards
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American household debt of all types increased during the last quarter of 2015, NerdWallet research shows. For households that carry any type of debt, total balances rose by 0.19% in this three-month span. Credit card debt had the most dramatic increase, growing 2.66% for households with credit card balances.

Average balance for households
with each kind of debt

 Q3 2015Q4 2015Change
Credit cards$15,354$15,7622.66%
Auto loans$26,784$27,1411.33%
Student loans$47,344$48,1721.75%
Any type of debt$130,669$130,9220.19%

We asked NerdWallet’s resident credit card expert, Sean McQuay, to weigh in on possible reasons behind the growing balances. “Expenses continue to outstrip income growth. While Americans are making more money now than they did a year ago, they’re also paying more, in aggregate,” he says. “Consumers need to continue to assess their spending habits on a regular basis to make sure they’re staying within their means.”

Note: The third-quarter numbers in the table above differ slightly from NerdWallet’s originally reported figures based on updated data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Erin El Issa is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: Twitter: @Erin_Lindsay17.