Consumer credit rises as credit card use falls

The amount of money consumers borrowed from lenders of all types rose 3.6 percent in September to a total of more than $2.45 trillion, even as the amount owed on credit cards tumbled once again, according to the latest consumer credit report issued by the Federal Reserve Board. That’s up from the slightly more than $2.44 trillion seen in August, when the rate slipped 4.7 percent. Borrowing has still not returned to July’s level of nearly $2.46 trillion.

Meanwhile, the amount of money borrowed on credit cards – or revolving credit, which can be carried from one month to the next – slipped for the third month in a row, this time falling 1 percent to $789.6 billion nationwide, the report said. That’s down from August’s $790.2 billion, and well below the $795.9 billion seen at the end of the first half of the year.

During the month, the national total of non-revolving credit – installment loans including those for education and auto purchases but excluding mortgages – rose 5.8 percent, the report said. This was a sharp change from the previous month, when it fell 5.4 percent. Now, consumers owe a total of more than $1.66 trillion on these lines of credit, up from the more than $1.65 trillion in August.

Consumers may still be wary of taking on credit card debt due to the sluggish rates of improvement in unemployment and wages. Credit card debt has fallen significantly since the onset of the recent recession, and has not ticked up appreciably even after that downturn ended, indicating consumers have altered their spending habits to avoid taking on credit card debt in case more financial troubles rear their heads.

Americans who are struggling under the weight of credit card debt that they don’t think they can handle may be able to find a benefit from consulting with a reputable, well-known credit counseling agency. By doing so, they will be assigned to a certified credit counselor who can help to walk them through their financial situation to see ways they can change their habits for the better and advise them on healthy ways to reduce debt.

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