New numbers from credit card site CardHub’s annual credit card debt survey show consumers are not backing down when it comes to charging. In fact, the survey showed U.S. consumers incurring $57.1 billion in credit card debt in 2014 — a 47% increase from a year before.
“Many people treat the credit card like cash or an extension of their checking account and don’t view it as borrowing money or going into debt,” says R. Joseph Ritter Jr., a certified financial planner at Zacchaeus Financial Counseling.
“It’s easy to justify using a credit card because you can pay it off next month or in a couple months when your bonus or raise comes or when things get better,” Ritter says. “But then something happens, and you can’t pay it off as planned.”
The numbers marked the fifth consecutive year credit card debt increased, with consumers racking up close to $180 billion after the nearly debt-neutral years of 2009 and 2010. The study estimates new debt will climb above $60 billion this year.
But the numbers may not be further illustration of American’s inability to handle credit, but rather an optimism in the economy.
“Increased consumer confidence and the job market are leading people to spend more,” says Peter Nigro, professor of finance at the Bryant University School of Business. “Although there is growth in debt, [it’s] still well below where we were.”