Card transaction value surged in 2011

The amount of money spent with debit, credit and prepaid cards increased considerably last year as consumers began to feel better about their financial situations in the wake of the recession.

The value of transactions completed by consumers using the four largest card brands in the nation (Visa, American Express, MasterCard and Discover) increased across the board, leading to the first double-digit increase in purchasing volume since 2007, before the recession began, according to data from the Nilson Report. In all, the value of all purchases made last year increased 10.4 percent to a total of nearly $3.6 trillion.

During that time, unpaid balances carried by consumers across those four credit card brands rose very slightly, but marked the first increase observed since 2008 when the effects of the burgeoning recession really began to take hold, the report said. In all, outstanding balances increased 0.3 percent to $713.27 billion, up $1.99 billion.

As consumers begin to feel more comfortable with their finances again, they should also take the time to order copies of their credit reports to make sure their borrowing histories are free of unfair marks that may negatively impact their credit scores.