U.S. consumer debt reached an all-time high in October as Americans used their credit cards more often and borrowed more money to attend school and buy cars.
The Federal Reserve reported that total consumer debt in October rose to $2.75 trillion as consumers increased their borrowing by $14.2 billion compared to September.
Borrowing on credit cards rose by $3.4 billion, just the second monthly increase in the past five months.
Borrowing in the non-revolving category, that covers autos and student loans, increased by $10.8 billion, and is 22 percent higher than in July 2008. This reflects in part the fact that many Americans who have lost jobs decided to go back to school to get training for new careers.
Credit card usage has fallen drastically since the 2008 credit crisis. Four years ago, Americans had $1.03 trillion in credit card debt, an all-time high. In October, that figure was 17 percent lower. Many consumers have been reluctant to build up credit card debt, which usually carries steeper interest rates than other loans.
Consumer spending, which drives roughly 70 percent of economic activity, dropped in October, perhaps partly because of disruptions caused by Superstorm Sandy.
Many consumers also may have scaled back because of fears about the "fiscal cliff" - the automatic tax increases and spending cuts that will take effect in January if Congress and the Obama administration fail to strike a budget deal by then.