Millennials, men and parents are more likely to incur holiday credit card debt
The holidays are upon us and that may mean racking up the credit cards to pay for gifts. CreditCards.com said 60% of Millennials are willing to go into debt this holiday shopping season, a lot more than Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, which came in at 49% and 34%, respectively.
Industry analyst Ted Rossman said he thinks one reason for this is because many Millennials have young children and buying for them can be quite expensive, especially around the holidays. He said they also are more likely to travel a lot this time of year and stay in hotels.
He also thinks there is a spillover effect from other financial obligations. Since many millennials have student loans and early career salaries, it's that much harder to stay on top of their holiday bills.
The survey also found that besides millennials, men, parents and those people who already have credit card debt are the most likely groups to incur even more debt.
Especially the group who already has debt, Rossman said any dollar spent is going to add to that debt. That may be a depressing thought but Rossman added the best thing to really do is to get a zero percent balance transfer card. This will let a person pause the interest clock up to 21 months.
If a person has debt, Rossman said don't chase rewards. Instead, go for the lowest possible interest rate.
"The meaning of this data is not to go all Scrooge and say, well, you can't buy any gifts, you can't travel and you can't do anything. You can do those things. You just need to either plan throughout the year, set money aside, get one of these balance transfer cards, maybe take on a side hustle," said Rossman.
The job market is good now. There are a lot of seasonable jobs out there to make some extra money. Maybe even sell things around the house. Rossman said there is a real demand for that around the holidays on eBay, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. It may be a good idea to turn some of these trinkets into actual cash.
"Credit card debt is easy to get into and hard to get out of," said Rossman. Unfortunately, the survey found that 56% of people in credit card debt have been there at least a year and 37% at least two years.
The problem is the economy has been good for 10 years. Unemployment is at a 50-year low. Stocks are at near record highs. Consumer confidence is up but that also means debt is up, too. He said a lot of people take advantage of the good job market and stock market, so they continue to spend beyond their means. But if a recession kicks in, that person is going to be in a lot of trouble.
Rossman said if a person is in a position to pay off their bill in full, then use the holidays to sign up for a new card. It will usually offer good sign-up bonuses, perfect for shopping and travel. If the person is in debt, he suggested focusing on offers that are more about no interest for 15, 18 or 21 months.
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