Personal-finance website WalletHub released its latest Credit Card Debt Study, which found that consumers paid off $38 billion of their roughly $1 trillion in credit card debt during the first quarter of 2019. Given that this year’s first-quarter paydown was smaller than last year’s, WalletHub now projects a $70 billion net increase in credit card debt during 2019.
In a news release it said the debt picture is worrisome nationwide, but some areas have bigger payment problems than others. WalletHub compared more than 2,500 cities based on how much residents owe to credit card companies – specifically, how those balances changed in Q1.
Cities with the Biggest Debt Paydown Cities with the Smallest Debt Paydown
Ewa Beach, HI Atlantic City, NJ
Darien, CT Benton Harbor, MI
Dix Hills, NY Bastrop, LA
Lake Forest, IL Dunnellon, FL
Southlake, TX Camden, NJ
Westport, CT Greenville, OH
Collegeville, PA Forest Park, GA
Calabasas, CA Sun City Center, FL
Beverly Hills, CA Laguna Woods, CA
Scarsdale, NY Darlington, SC
Q&A with WalletHub CEO Odysseas Papadimitriou
Why is a first-quarter paydown a bad sign for credit card debt?
“Paying off credit card debt always is preferable to the alternative, but history tells us the size of the paydown matters,” said WalletHub CEO Odysseas Papadimitriou in the release. “It’s normal for credit card debt to decrease during the first quarter of the year as consumers receive annual salary bonuses and tax refunds as well as commit to financial New Year’s resolutions. But a relatively big or small first-quarter paydown can be an important indicator for consumer performance throughout the rest of the year.
In 2018, we began the year by paying off almost $41 billion in credit card debt during the first quarter, and we ended the year owing $67 billion more than we did to start. The fact that we didn’t pay down as much debt during Q1 this year may be a sign that consumers aren’t quite as healthy as some other metrics may indicate.”
How long can consumers keep racking up credit card debt?
“If the average household’s credit card balance tops $10,000, that would be a breaking point,” Papadimitriou said in the release. “At that point, defaults would rise sharply from the historical lows they’ve hovered near for years now. Access to credit would tighten as a result, and consumer spending would slow, causing further economic damage. Unfortunately, we’re not far from the $10,000 level right now. The average household currently owes roughly $8,390.”
What’s the best way to pay off credit card debt?
The best way to pay off credit card debt is as quickly as possible, starting with the balance that has the highest APR,” Papadimitriou added in the release. “Credit card interest rates are extremely high compared to most other loans because they are unsecured. Even the average credit card APR is north of 19%, according to WalletHub’s latest Credit Card Landscape Report. Carrying a large balance from month to month with interest accruing at a rate that high would be quite costly. As a result, it’s best to make a budget that devotes as much as possible to monthly debt payments and removes luxuries you can live without. People with good credit or better may also be able to qualify for a 0% APR balance transfer credit card or a debt consolidation loanwith a low APR. When used responsibly, such offers can save you a lot of money and time.”