Record $35.6 billion in credit card debt + fed rate cut survey

The personal-finance website WalletHub recently released two key reports. Its latest Credit Card Debt Study found that consumers racked up $35.6 billion in credit card debt during Q2 2019 – an all-time record for the second quarter of the year. The Fed Rate Cut Survey revealed that a Federal Reserve interest rate cut on Sept. 18, which 7 in 10 people support, would save people with credit card debt $1.6 billion in the next year alone.

Below, you can find a handful of highlights from these reports.

States with the Biggest Q2 Debt Increases

New York

States with the Smallest Q2 Debt Increases

South Dakota
North Dakota

Record Debt: U.S. consumers added $35.6 billion in new credit card debt during the second quarter of 2019 – the largest second-quarter build-up ever. WalletHub projects that consumers will end the year with a net increase of $70 billion in credit card debt.

High Interest Rates: 68% of Americans say the interest rates on their loans are too high.

Consumer Savings: Credit card users will save roughly $1.6 billion in interest if the Fed cuts its target rate again. The average household currently owes $8,602.

Mixed Consumer Sentiment: 41% of people say they will feel more confident in the economy if the Fed cuts its target rate in September.

Q&A with WalletHub CEO Odysseas Papadimitriou

Why is it significant that credit card debt increased by $35.6 billion during the second quarter of the year?

“The fact that U.S. consumers added $35.6 billion in credit card debt to their tab during Q2 2019 is significant because that is an all-time record high for the second quarter of the year,” said WalletHub CEO Odysseas Papadimitriou. “Our over leveraging problem has been trending in the wrong direction for some time now, and the latest data indicate we’re truly entering dangerous territory.”

Is it a good idea for the Federal Reserve to cut its target rate?

“I was on board for the July rate cut, thinking it best to give the benefit of the doubt to the people with the most information on the economy. But I do not think another Fed rate cut is the right move right now,” said Odysseas Papadimitriou. “I do not believe a rate cut is called for currently, based on the immediate economic outlook. So it’s kind of like shooting one of your few remaining bullets when the fighting hasn’t even started yet.”

Can consumers do anything to take advantage of the Fed cutting its target rate?

“Ideally, consumers would use lower rates as an opportunity to pay off what they already owe at a faster clip. Having to pay less in interest means more of your payment can go toward the principal balance, after all,” said Papadimitriou. “Unfortunately, that’s not what we’re seeing. Instead, it seems like consumers are ramping up their reliance on credit card debt. This is an ominous signal, as there are a lot of similarities to the time shortly before the last recession.”

Are you concerned about the risk of a recession?

“We’re always at risk of a recession, in a sense, but I do not see a recession coming in the next several months. The fundamentals of the economy are looking strong,” said the WalletHub CEO. “One of the biggest risks is consumers panicking without reason. And on that note, I think it’s important to point out that the next downturn won’t look anything like the Great Recession. This time around, I highly doubt we’ll have a segment of the economy as crucial as the financial sector almost fail.”


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