Shoppers Promised, But Couldn't Keep Away from Plastic

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- With the best of intentions, consumers promised they would cut back on their reliance on credit cards to get through the holidays.

But those good intentions went awry, and higher credit card use in the last six weeks of 2013 have some consumers buried in debt.

This isn't exactly a new problem. Transunion was already reporting last month that Americans tend to have 40% more on their credit card bill from December than in the average month, and 20% have December credit card bills that are twice the normal amount they see the rest of the year.

That trend has continued into this year.

Saveup.com, a San Francisco online financial rewards service, says in its January U.S. Consumer Savings and Debt Report that almost 70% of Americans promised themselves they would use cash for their holiday spending.

But consumers whipped out the plastic just the same, and left themselves with $363 more in credit card debt this month than a year ago at this time. Americans did a much better job of saving for the holidays in 2012, when they withdrew about $700 from savings accounts and $1,000 from money market accounts to use for holiday spending.

A year later, consumers couldn't match their savings success.

"As the banking industry continues to rebound from 2009 and debt becomes more accessible, Americans are falling back into old habits," says Priya Haji, CEO of SaveUp. "Ultimately, consumers leveraged debt for holiday purchasing more so in 2013 than in 2012 despite plans to do otherwise. These habits will need to be broken in order to avoid the constant threat of financial ebb and flow."

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