If you notice more people whipping out a credit card, there may be reason — there has not been this many around in a while.
More than 171 million consumers now have access to a credit card — which is the highest level since 2005, according to the most recent quarterly report by TransUnion. The increase in access to cards contributed to a 7.4% increase in total balances — which reached $693 billion in the first quarter of the year.
Which begs the question — are we reaching dangerous levels of consumer lending?
"The current situation with credit, debt and the overall economy is concerning," Sean Fox, co-president of Freedom Financial Network. "The total amount of debt consumers owe continues to rise, yet even as more people are employed, they are not earning more. That combination of factors is creating a crunch that is especially worrying with the just-announced interest rate hike."
However, Monica Eaton-Cardone, co-founder of the chargeback remediation site Chargebacks911, said the uptick in access to credit is a net positive trend, because it looks to be mainly responsible usage so far.
"Consumers were apprehensive about credit cards following the 2008 crisis," she said. "Though we're seeing credit card usage rise, people seem to be more responsible in their use of credit compared to pre-2008."
She said while delinquency is up slightly, that is to be expected as subprime access to credit cards increases.
"Overall, though, consumers' average creditability is up, with more and more consumers rated prime or higher," she added.