U.S. credit card debt jumped by $57.1 billion - up 47% - in 2014 compared to 2013 and the forecast calls for the total to reach $60 billion this year, according to a new survey from CardHub.
The survey results indicate the amount of debt could be unsustainable for households despite a strengthening U.S. economy. The surge has left the average household credit card balance at nearly $7,200, or not far from the $8,300 level that was the average card balance in the throes of 2008, when the economy was in disarray.
"We've now had six consecutive quarters of year over year increases in our credit card debt load," CardHub said in the study. "As a result, we must strive to remember the corrosive impact of debt on household finances during the recession and work to get out from under its influence before the burden becomes unbearable again."
The jump in spending signals Americans are likely feeling more relaxed about their prospects and the economy. The problem is that most workers aren't seeing the type of wage growth to support higher spending.
While Americans are carrying more debt, their earnings are barely ahead of where they were a decade ago. Household earnings have increased only 2% during the past 10 years, The Pew Charitable Trusts said in a study issued in February.
"This is a sign that Americans haven't really learned their lesson. Their attitude toward credit card debt hasn't improved since the recession, said Jill Gonzalez, CardHub spokeswoman, about the new report.
Still, Americans are feeling more positive about the economy, and there is a measure of good news in that.
The credit card charge-off rate, or the percentage of debt that's declared unrecoverable by credit card companies, is about 2.89%, the lowest mark 1985 and presumably a result of an improving job market, CardHub said.
CardHub also expects 2015 to be a record year for auto sales as consumers shop for new vehicles amid a brighter outlook.
According to the Pew study, more than half of Americans say they're financially insecure, citing concerns ranging from student loans and credit card debt to a lack of income. With more than half saying they aren't prepared for a financial emergency, rising credit card debt could pose a problem if interest rates go up or the economy falters.