Consumer credit up along with debt - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Consumer credit up along with debt

Updated:

March 12, 2008

Albany--  As our economy struggles, Americans are now more than $2.5 trillion in debt. A good chunk of that is credit card debt.

The Federal Reserve reports more people are putting themselves in a financial hole by depending on credit to finance everyday purchases. Consumer debt is not only up, it's rising at a fast rate.

A trip to the mall can be a temptation, especially with a piece of plastic in hand. "It's a temptation just like gambling or drinking," said Eddy Gupta.

For some, the credit card temptation is minimal. "I have just one, just one," said Zola Henley.

For others like Eddy Gupta, the temptation can be thick. "Yup, I'm a credit card man," said Gupta.

He has 11 credit cards to choose from. But he says they are more of a help than a hindrance. "They are a little temptation but they also give you flexibility too," said Gupta.

Consumer credit is up across the nation. According to CreditTrak.com, revolving consumer credit has now reached a record $947.4 billion. In January alone, Americans racked up $5.6 billion in net new debt, mostly from credit cards.

"That's a concern when you think about debt to income ratios. We were already high beforehand. Now we're starting to see unemployment creep up a bit," said Aaron Johnson.

Economics Professor Aaron Johnson says rising prices also cause increased spending. "Debt levels are increasing now because of high prices," said Johnson.

And concern continues to grow about the state of the economy.

"The housing crisis is the main problem. Foreclosures and bankruptcies are on the rise," said Johnson. As credit card debt rises, there are still some trying to get into the game.

"I don't have any credit yet but I have been trying to apply," said Nakita Weston. But others with experience have a warning.

"I don't go overboard," said Henley.

"What happens with credit cards affect you in the long run. If you can't control yourself, you can't control anything else," said Gupta.

It all comes down to resisting temptation in what has come to be uncertain financial times.

Another reason credit card usage is up is because it's becoming harder for people to get home equity loans. Some banks are getting strict in lending because of the housing crisis.

Non-revolving credit use is also rising.  That's the credit used to finance things like cars and education. Economists say although credit can help, it's best to make sure purchases fit within your budget.  

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