Credit Card Debt Rising Again Amid the Pandemic

After a sharp drop in 2020, many consumers are carrying higher balances now

When the coronavirus pandemic began, credit card balances in the United States declined sharply. But as the pandemic has continued, Americans are running their balances up again, and total credit card debt in the U.S. is creeping back toward the $1 trillion mark. This reversal is apparent in data gathered in a recent survey from Inside 1031, which highlights the struggles many consumers are facing, including higher balances, missed payments, and more.

Key Takeaways

  • Credit card debt in the U.S. declined by more than 10% in 2020 as Americans stayed home and spent less.
  • In 2021, however, debt numbers are climbing back to previous levels, reaching a total of almost $1 trillion in July.
  • According to a survey by Inside 1031, almost half of consumers are carrying more debt on their credit cards than when the pandemic began.
  • A third of those with credit card debt say it will take them more than two years to repay it, and one in five expect it to take three years or longer.

Key Findings of the Inside 1031 Credit Card Debt Survey

In a survey of 1,000 Americans who have at least one credit card, Inside 1031, a website for real estate investors conducting 1031 exchanges, found that 45% of Americans have taken on more card debt since the pandemic began in March 2020. Only 26% have seen a decrease in their balances, and 30% have noticed no change at all.

Data from the Federal Reserve support the suggestion that credit card debt is making a comeback. Total revolving debt in 2020 was $974.6 billion, a 10.8% drop from $1.092 trillion the previous year.

In 2021, however, Americans are spending again. While their total debt dropped even lower, to $966.4 billion, in the first quarter of the year, it rose to $998.4 billion in July, putting it on a trajectory to exceed $1 trillion once the August data are released.

Other findings from the Inside 1031 credit card debt survey include:

  • Fifty-five percent of Americans now carry a balance from month to month.
  • Nearly 1 in 5 (18%) Americans have more than $20,000 in credit card debt.
  • Almost a third of credit card users (31%) missed a payment in 2021.
  • A third of Americans with credit card debt expect it'll take them more than two years to repay what they owe. One in five expect it to take three years or more.
  • Credit card debt holders may find it challenging to their social life, as 45% of Americans say they won't pursue a relationship with someone who has significant credit card debt. Among baby boomers, that number is 71%.

You can read more about the survey's findings and methodology at the Inside 1031 website.

Article Sources
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  1. Inside 1031. "The Pandemic Has Plunged Americans Into Severe Credit Card Debt: 2021 Data."

  2. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. "Consumer Credit."