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The recession inspired new credit card habits in Americans

There is really no shortage of entertaining things to do in Appleton. But whether it’s going out to eat at one of hundreds of restaurants, seeing a show at the Performing Arts Center or attending a concert a Lawrence University, entertainment costs money. And when money is tight, our spending habits tend to change.

Perhaps it is no surprise, then, that Americans seem to have significantly changed their spending habits in response to the Great Recession that really began to take hold in about 2008. Even though the economy has largely recovered, many of us remain wary about accumulating credit card debt. According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans seem to be carrying fewer cards and maintaining lower debt balances than they did prior to the recession.

The Gallup poll surveyed a random sample of more than 1,000 people. The results showed that 29 percent of Americans don’t own or use credit cards at all. Those who do have cards tend to have fewer. In April 2001, for instance, Americans carried four credit cards on average. Today, that number is down to an average of 3.7 cards (a number which really only makes sense as an average).

What’s more, we seem to be managing our spending on credit more wisely than in the past. About 48 percent of Americans now pay their balances in full each month. Those who carry debt from month to month seem to have less of it. The average monthly balance is about $275 lower than it was in April 2008.

There is nothing inherently wrong with credit card spending or credit card debt. It is a financial tool that many families continue to rely on even though the economy has strengthened. Thankfully, however, our collective credit card habits seem to be changing in such a way as to lessen the chances of falling into long-term financial difficulty.

Source: FiveThirtyEight.com, “Americans Have Fewer Credit Cards And Less Debt,” Mona Chalabi, April 25, 2014

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