Credit Card Debt Continues to Drop

Consumers continue to wise up about the amount of credit card debt they carry, according to a new report from the Federal Reserve.

The latest G.19 report from the Fed found that revolving credit debt (debt that does not have to be paid off in installments, a category dominated by credit cards) in the U.S. fell $8 billion between August and September of this year. Revolving credit debt fell nearly 9% in the third quarter (at an annualized rate), and has been steadily dropping for over two years. The decline in revolving credit debt came despite a rare bump in overall consumer borrowing in September.

This fresh round of data comes on the heels of other metrics showing that consumers are getting a handle on their credit card debt. CreditKarma.com recently reported that credit card holders have reduced their debt by 7% since January 2010, and found that cardholders in seven states have paid down their debt by 10% or more. That’s good news for Americans’ credit scores. “We suspect this focus on financial responsibility will ultimately lead to credit scores increasing again,” said CreditKarma.com CEO Ken Lin.

While this is good news for consumers, it may cause retailers some discomfort. We reported last week that many shoppers were planning to pick cash over credit during the holiday shopping season, and a new survey by market analysts Morpace finds 40% of consumers plan to avoid using their credit card, up from 35% last year.

The switch to cash is partly due to concerns over credit card debt racked up during last year’s shopping season, but also part of a general push to restrain the impulse buying and out-of-control spending that often results from credit card use.