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U.S. Credit Card Debt Nears $1 Trillion Record Level

U.S. Credit Card Debt Nears $1 Trillion Record Level

Less than a decade after out-of-control mortgage debt nearly dragged down the entire U.S. economy, the Wall Street Journal reports that by the end of 2016, Americans will collectively hold $1 trillion in credit card debt. The all-time peak for national credit card debt was $1.02 trillion in July 2008, indicating that many Americans have already forgotten the lessons of the Great Recession.

The scenario of increasing debt complacency among borrowers and ever-loosening credit standards among lenders is chillingly familiar.

Cumulative U.S. auto debt also eclipsed $1 trillion for the first time earlier this year.

Since the Financial Crisis, banks have been under extreme pressure from heightened capital requirements and historically-low interest rates. Credit cards, which tend to have some of the highest interest rates among common varieties of debt, have been the saving grace for bank margins. According to, the national average interest rate on credit cards is currently just above 15 percent.

Related Link: How Do Rising Interest Rates Affect The Average American?

Unfortunately, card companies now seem to be focusing their marketing on customers that already have debt. Capital One Financial Corp. (NYSE: COF) has boosted profits by raising credit limits for card-holders.

American Express Company (NYSE: AXP) is also openly focusing its lending efforts on customers who already have balances on their cards.

Citigroup Inc (NYSE: C), Discover Financial Services (NYSE: DFS) and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) all reported hikes in average credit card balances in Q1.

Disclosure: The author holds no position in the stocks mentioned.


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