Consumer credit outstanding, which includes revolving and non-revolving credit, rose at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 3.6% in May to $2.57 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve's monthly Consumer Credit survey.
Credit card borrowing rebounded in May after dropping in April for the first time since May 2005, according to the Federal Reserve's G.19 report, which states that revolving credit (98% of which is credit card debt) rose to $961.8 billion in May, up slightly from $956.2 billion the previous month.
The increase is a possible sign that consumers more often are relying on plastic to cover mounting expenses, Dennis Moroney, research director at research and advisory services firm TowerGroup. "The growth in balances is a trend that we expect to continue as consumers juggled their household debt, which is at record levels. The cost of energy is greatly hurting consumers," he says.
Another factor at work, he says, is that banks have increased minimum credit card payments in recent years and that means borrowers must come up with added cash each month. With more consumers forced to revolve their balances, rising minimum payments have become a bigger problem.
The American Bankers Association and Fitch Ratings credit-rating agency both recently reported rising levels of credit card delinquencies. According to the ABA, in the first quarter, bank card delinquencies rose 13 basis points to 4.51%. This is slightly above the five-year average delinquency rate of 4.40% for this category.