There are as many reasons to fall behind on credit card payments as there are cardholders, but one thing became clear this summer: More and more of us are doing it. The New York Federal Reserve, which is the largest in the system based on assets and activity, released a report this week showing that 4.4 percent of U.S. cardholders became delinquent for the first time between Jan. 1 and March 31 of this year. Last year, that number was only 3.5 percent.
It doesn't stop there. Right now, Americans' revolving debt (generally synonymous with credit card debt) stands at $1.02 billion. That's not just the most it's ever been, but it's slightly higher than where we were in April 2008, just before the Great Recession.
Part of this has to do with more credit cards being made available to more people. You may remember all those economics lessons from The Big Short and what happens when companies and individuals bulk up on credit to bet on whether it will be paid back. Those with low credit scores are considered subprime borrowers, which means it's more of a risk to offer them credit because they might not pay back the lenders. What's different about now versus 2008 is that lenders are giving out much less credit to subprime borrowers. More people are given credit, but companies are instituting caps on how much they can take out.
That said, borrowers with "super-prime" credit scores are getting way, way higher spending limits, which is skewing the data. Keep that sort of thing in mind if you're scared about another economic crash.
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But those are macroeconomics, not your personal money situation. If you're struggling with credit card debt, you can do something about that today. There are a ton of resources available to get your debt under control so you can breathe easier and get on with your life. Start by tallying up your debt. Once everything is on the table, you have the information you need to make a payment plan that works for you. After that, track your spending with some easy budget templates or your favorite budgeting app. Finally, keep an eye on your credit score — you can get your credit report for free, so don't ever pay if a service asks for a fee.
The vast majority of Americans are no stranger to debt. You're far from alone: The average American millennial carries $3,542 in credit card debt, and we've got a lot of factors working against us. But while news about the economy can be scary, you've definitely got ways to help yourself stay on your feet.