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Household Debt Slowly Creeping Back Up to Recession Levels

Sept. 15, 2016
Credit Card Data, Credit Cards
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Overall American household debt increased slightly during the second quarter of 2016, according to NerdWallet research. For households carrying any type of debt, balances increased by 0.05%, or less than $100 per household. Student loan decreased by $395 per household that has student loan debt, but credit card and auto loan debt both increased by more than 2% — $365 and $677 per household with these types of debt, respectively.

Average balance for households with each type of debt:

Q1 2016 Q2 2016 Change
Credit cards $15,310 $15,675 2.38%
Mortgages $171,775 $172,341 0.33%
Auto loans $27,188 $27,865 2.49%
Student loans $48,986 $48,591 –0.81%
Any type of debt $132,086 $132,158 0.05%

“As the economy continues to recover and the Fed continues to keep rates low, it’s no surprise that debt loads are rising as well,” says Sean McQuay, NerdWallet’s credit cards expert. “At this rate, we’ll reach mid-2008 debt levels, which were the highest in the last decade, within the next 12 to 18 months.

“Similarly, credit card debt continues to rise, but I don’t see this as a sign of unhealthy spending. Delinquencies on payments and other potentially troubling signs are still well below recession levels. That said, as we prepare for year-end spending, especially for the holidays, this is a good time to remind ourselves to keep an eye on spending. Credit card debt is expensive and should be avoided whenever possible,” McQuay says.

Erin El Issa is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: [email protected]. Twitter: @Erin_El_Issa.