Consumers Expect, and Accept, That Holiday Shopping Means 2012 Debt

NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Consumers armed with plastic this holiday shopping season are expecting to rack up higher credit card balances than in 2010 – and they’re apparently OK with that.

On Black Friday alone, 44% of adults will hit the stores, according to a recent survey by the research group Accenture.

“This holiday season will see the balance of power continue to tip in favor of the consumer,” said Janet Hoffman, managing director of Accenture’s retail operations, in a statement. “‘Precision shoppers’ will dominate. They will be very targeted about where and what they buy, and will be more inclined to shop around for the best value.”

Accenture notes that many of those shoppers will be affluent ones who earn more than $100,000 a year. Such shoppers are more likely to use credit cards, and are highly likely to spend more money on gifts and parties during the holidays.

A separate survey by credit monitoring website Freescore.com, which included people at all income levels who plan to use credit cards during the next few weeks, found that 24% of these consumers said they expect their credit card balances to rise after the holidays – up from 19% in 2010. Also, only 19% of survey participants said their balances would decline, while 58% told Freescore.com that their debt would stay the same as before the holiday shopping was done.

The survey also cites fresh data from the Federal Reserve on revolving debt, noting that U.S. credit card debt stood at $798.6 billion in the third quarter of 2011, down 3.2% from the $795.9 billion recorded in the second quarter of 2011. If card users spring for more gifts and eggnog this holiday season though, those numbers could well bounce back up in the fourth quarter and leave some cardholders facing higher balances and more debt come January 2012.

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