Credit cards are still being used to pay for basic needs by many U.S. households, according to a new Demos survey. Forty percent of households that have had credit card debt for at least three months have used their cards to pay for rent or mortgages, insurance premiums, utilities, and groceries, says LowCards.com CEO Bill Hardekopf. The leading contributors to credit card debt were unemployment and medical bills, according to the Demos study, which found that 86 percent of households that had incurred spending on account of unemployment in the past year consequently assumed credit card debt. Nearly 50 percent of surveyed households carried debt from medical expenses on their credit cards. Still, respondents’ average credit card debt in 2012 fell 27 percent from 2008 levels. The survey indicates that 50 percent of affected households reduced spending due to tighter credit following the start of the financial crisis. Following the Federal Reserve’s deployment of 2009’s Credit CARD Act, consumers are paying off debt faster now that their bill statements show how long it takes to settle the balance by paying only the monthly minimum.
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