Back-to-school shopping could lead to more credit card debt

As families hit shopping malls for back-to-school supplies, credit card balances have been rising as a result, according to a new survey from the financial information site CNET Money.

High prices are having an impact, with 85% of respondents saying inflation and rising consumer costs would impact their back-to-school shopping plans this year in some way.

“Supplies are getting more expensive,” said Nick Wolny, CNET Money senior editor. “More shoppers are going to rely on some form of financing in order to deal with those costs.”

According to the CNET Money survey, 43% of shoppers plan to alleviate costs by taking on some form of financing.

Of the consumers who plan to use credit, 27% will use an existing credit card and 12% will open a new credit card, the survey showed.

One in 10 respondents said they planned to utilize a “buy now, pay later” program.

“Spending money that they don’t necessarily have right now, and will hopefully get later, is becoming an increasingly popular strategy for consumers in order to pay for this year’s back-to-school expenses,” Wolny said.

The average planned back-to-school spending per household jumped to $890.07 in 2023, up nearly 3% from last year, and up 27.7% since 2019.

Americans carry a combined total of $986 billion in credit card debt, a 17% increase from last year, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

“We just know that Americans are relying more on credit cards and more on financing,” Wolny said. “They’re putting more stuff on credit cards and keeping it on their credit cards longer as a result of that.”

Wolny’s advice for shoppers who are taking on more credit card debt is to outline a plan, including the maximum amount they can spend and how long it will take to pay the debt off.

“It can be really tempting to punt and just end up paying for stuff later,” Wolny said. “Make a plan beforehand so you’ve got a sense of what your overall cost is going to be, that way you can plan for it accordingly.”

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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