1 in 10 credit card accounts is in ‘persistent debt’
Americans are racking up record amounts of credit card debt, and a growing number are drowning in interest payments.
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)—an independent agency of the U.S. government—9.9% of general-purpose credit card accounts were in “persistent debt” last year.
That means more of their money goes toward interest and fees than paying down the principal balance.
The figure is notably higher than in 2021, where 8.4% of credit card accounts were in the dogged “persistent debt” category.
Analysts at CFPB blamed rising borrowing costs and declining real income (adjusted for inflation) for the growing problem. “People get into this situation they can’t get out of,” a CFPB spokesperson told CNN.
“The fees and interest keep people trapped there.”
Americans paid a whopping $105 billion in credit card interest in 2022, including $30.5 billion in the fourth quarter, which was the highest in seven years.
All the while, credit card companies posted massive profits.
The consolidation of the credit card industry
As more consumers struggle to make interest payments, credit card companies have seen their profits eclipse pre-pandemic levels. According to the CFPB, this potentially signals “a lack of competition in a market consistently dominated by the top 10 credit card companies.”
Perhaps the most alarming trend identified by the agency is that credit card APRs “continue to rise far above the cost of offering credit.” In 2022, average APR margins were 15.4 percentage points above the Fed’s prime rate.
CFPB is mandated under federal law to look closely into these matters and weed out bad practices as they arise.
“With credit card debt crossing the trillion dollar mark, we will be working to prevent bait-and-switch tactics when it comes to rewards and to increase refinancing activity so consumers can get lower rates,” said CFPB director Rohit Chopra.
Credit card dependency on the rise
America’s addiction to credit is well documented by now, but a recent survey from money management software Quicken Inc. shed more light on the problem.
Two in five Americans with credit cards are more dependent on their cards than ever, Quicken’s survey results revealed. More than one-third (35%) said they won’t be able to pay down their debt before year’s end.
“This increased reliance on credit cards is likely to lead many even deeper into debt—which is especially troublesome with interest rates well into the double digits,” the company said.
Younger generations are no exception, with 53% of millennials and 41% of Gen-Zs reporting credit card dependency. Research from TransUnion shows that these cohorts are racking up credit card debt faster than other generations.