US credit card debt now tops $1 trillion

US credit card debt surpasses $1 trillion for first time

US credit card debt surpasses $1 trillion for first time

For the first time ever, American credit card users owe more than $1 trillion.

The total amount of credit card debt is $1.03 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, after balances increased $45 billion in the first financial quarter of the year.

Financial experts say this is a clear example of how pricier goods are taxing Americans, who are likely turning to credit to purchase essential items. Take food for example: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of food is up 5.7% from a year ago.  

King Banaian, an economics professor at St. Cloud State University, also feels this shows that consumers expect to continue living a life they please, despite the cost or cash they have available.

“People are still wanting to go out, take vacations, travel, go to shows, go to ballgames and so forth,” Banaian said. “So that, I think, is what you see in the credit card debt data, [people] out spending on those things.”

Federal Reserve researchers described the spike in credit debt as a “brisk growth” — also reporting that while there was a slight increase in the number of people not being able to make payments, that number is at about pre-pandemic levels.

The timing of this historic debt level comes close to when student loan repayments kick back in. Banaian says this will likely lead to some difficult decisions for some with tight budgets.

The Federal Reserve has been trying to lower inflation, causing higher consumer prices by raising interest rates. With those rates at the highest level in more than 20 years, the more than a trillion dollars in debt is even more expensive. While the Federal Reserve Board has a few more meetings this year, its plans are unclear.

“The Fed has [left] it open to decide based on data yet to come in whether or not they’re going to raise rates further,” Banaian said.