US credit card debt at record high

(Metro photo)

NEW YORK — As the Federal Reserve raises interest rates again, credit card debt is already at a record high, and more people are carrying debt month to month.

The Fed’s interest rate increases are meant to fight inflation, but they’ve also led to higher annual percentage rates (APRs) for people with credit card debt, which means they pay more in interest. The Fed announced Wednesday that it would increase rates another quarter of a point.

With inflation still high, people are leaning on their credit cards more for everyday purchases.

“It’s the economy, inflation, gas prices, and food costs,” said Lance DeJesus, 46, kitchen manager at the Golden Corral in York, Pennsylvania. “A year ago, you could go to the grocery store with a hundred bucks and come out with a bunch of bags. Now, I come out with just one bag.”

DeJesus said he carries a credit card balance of roughly $2,600 from month to month over several cards, which have interest rates from 16.99% to 21.99%.

Early in the pandemic, when DeJesus lost his job, he said that unemployment payments, stimulus checks, and child tax credits (which went to his household via his wife, who has three children) all helped him stay afloat. Now, with COVID-era emergency relief and stimulus policies ending, he uses credit for emergencies.

He’s not alone: 46% of people are carrying debt from month to month, up from 39% a year ago, according to Bankrate.com, an online financial information site.

Bankrate says the average credit card interest rate, or annual percentage rate, has reached 20.4% — the highest since their tracking began in the mid-1980s.

A new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds 35% of U.S. adults report that their household debt is higher than it was a year ago. Just 17% say it has decreased.

Roughly 4 in 10 adults in households making under $100,000 a year say their debt is up, compared with about a quarter in households making more than that.