Americans add $184 billion in debt to start 2024; far more credit card accounts delinquent

U.S. consumers now hold $17.69 trillion in debt.
Several credit cards.
Posted at 8:24 AM, May 15, 2024

Americans added $184 billion in total debt in the first three months of 2024, bringing the entire amount of U.S. consumer debt to $17.69 trillion, according to new data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Center for Microeconomic Data.

As of March 2024, Americans had $12.44 trillion in mortgage debt, an increase of $190 billion. Debt figures were slightly offset by a $14 billion drop in credit card debt, bringing the total amount owed to $1.16 trillion. The amount of student loan debt also fell in the first three months of 2024 to $1.6 trillion, an increase of $6 billion from the end of 2023.

For the 12-month period ending in March, U.S. consumer debt increased by $640 billion, with mortgages accounting for $398 billion of the rise. Americans held $129 billion more in credit card debt than a year earlier.

Auto loan debt has also increased $54 billion over the last year.

Man holds up credit cards.

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The rising household debt has also caused more Americans to become delinquent.

“In the first quarter of 2024, credit card and auto loan transition rates into serious delinquency continued to rise across all age groups,” said Joelle Scally, New York Fed regional economic principal. “An increasing number of borrowers missed credit card payments, revealing worsening financial distress among some households.”

According to the new data, 1.54% of all balances have transitioned into delinquency by being at least 90 days behind on payments. At the end of March 2023, that figure was 1.08%. The data shows that 6.86% of credit card balances were delinquent at the end of March, which was up from 4.57% of accounts a year earlier. The data indicated that about a third of credit card accounts that have maxed out have gone delinquent in the last year.

The number of delinquent mortgages rose nearly 40% compared to early 2023, and auto loan delinquencies increased 19% to start 2024.

"We have shown that new credit card delinquencies are disproportionately ascribable to maxed-out borrowers and their balances," wrote Andrew F. Haughwout, an analyst with the New York Fed. "The share of maxed-out borrowers has been increasing from pandemic lows and is approaching pre-pandemic levels, and the delinquency transition rates of these maxed-out borrowers are now noticeably higher than pre-pandemic, resulting in higher transition rates into credit card delinquency overall."