More Ohioans Relying on Credit Cards for Basic Needs

Ohio News Connection

Amid inflation, more Ohioans are relying on credit cards to meet basic needs, and the nation is now saddled with nearly $988 billion in credit card debt, according to recent Federal Reserve Bank data.

Research shows non-housing debt, including credit cards and student loans, is on the rise, increasing 51% since 2013. Interest rates are also squeezing consumers, with the average credit card interest rate at more than 20%.

Hannah Halbert, executive director of Policy Matters Ohio, said the rise in debt corresponds to stagnant wages and a failing labor market. She said more Ohioans now have to rely on credit cards to make ends meet because their salaries are not keeping pace with inflation. She expects the gap to widen.

“In a state like Ohio, where three of the top 10 job categories in the state paid less than 130% of poverty, it is no wonder that people are having to take on debt,” Halbert said.

Research from Bankrate shows fewer people are paying their credit card balances. The number of holders with a balance has jumped to 46%, up from 39% in 2022. According to Experian, the average credit card balance in Ohio is more than $5,000.

Halbert said a “triple threat” of credit card debt, medical debt and student loan debt is compounding a crisis affecting local economies and families’ ability to provide for their children and thrive. She argued debt is no longer a personal problem or individual decision, and pointed to universal health care and free community colleges as partial solutions to ballooning debt.

“These are really outgrowths of failed policy, and a decision by policymakers to not use our shared resources, like our tax revenue, to solve these problems,” Halbert said.

In 2021, almost 60% of all third-party debt collections were for medical debt. Halbert said some local governments are taking steps to address debt among residents with hospital bills. 

According to Policy Matters Ohio, Columbus and Cleveland have considered legislation that would use American Rescue Plan Act funding to retire hundreds of millions of dollars in medical debt.

Reporting by Ohio News Connection in association with Media in the Public Interest and funded in part by the George Gund Foundation.

Pictured at top: A shopper uses a credit card to make a purchase. (Adobe Stock)

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.