Though millions of Americans have seen their personal finances grow more secure in the years since the recent economic downturn, a large percentage still have significant concerns, and one of the top worries relates to credit cards and debt.
About 40 percent of consumers say that they are concerned about having the ability to pay down their monthly credit card bills and other balances, such as mortgages, according to the latest Chase Pulse of the Consumer Survey. However, 65 percent of respondents also said that they believed their personal finances have already hit rock bottom and are either holding steady at current levels or continuing to improve. That's up from 56 percent in the same survey a year prior.
"We're encouraged that consumers think the economy and their personal finances are on the upswing, but there is still work to be done," said Eileen Serra, chief executive officer for Chase Card Services. "Consumers continue to need the correct financial tools and services to better manage their everyday expenses – that is a critical first step to gaining full control over their financial future."
Changes in attitudes
Perhaps as a result of fears about being able to afford the everyday purchases they need to make in their lives, consumers overwhelmingly say they have changed some of their habits, the report said. For instance, 78 percent said they've decided to spend less on day-to-day items, while 61 percent say they've made efforts to cut into their credit card balances more quickly with larger payments.
Another 54 percent say they've gone out of their way to create monthly budgets, the report said. Further, 53 percent say they're concerned about saving money on their everyday purchases altogether. However, only 45 percent of respondents said they would actually be financially motivated to make sure they were getting the most out of their spending.
Another major concern
A worry shared by 64 percent of those surveyed was related to the ability to cut debt and reduce costs in their daily lives: Having the ability to put money away, the report said. In all, 74 percent said they were worried they don't have enough money in savings, and 64 percent believe they need to do more to save for retirement.
However, only 36 percent say they've been able to put more money into normal savings since the recession hit, the report said. Further, just 34 percent have increased their retirement savings during this time.
Despite knowing that credit card debt can be extremely troublesome for many aspects of their finances, the lack of savings can pose a real problem for those who face a major financial concern, the report said. If they had to pay for an unexpected financial emergency that cost $1,500, 49 percent of respondents said they would do so using a credit card.
Of that proportion, 50 percent believed they would be able to pay that bill all at once if they had to, while the other half noted they would need to do so over time instead, the report said. And of the latter group, 83 percent said they would formulate a plan to more effectively pay it off as quickly as possible.
Fortunately, many Americans are now taking advantage of the myriad technological options available to them for getting their finances under control, the report said. For instance, 70 percent of respondents said they believe that online banking, credit card websites, or both are valuable in helping to manage their money, with those between 18 and 34 (77 percent), as well as 45 and 54 (71 percent), saying they got the most out of doing so.
Another 24 percent of consumers said they rely on mobile applications provided by their banks, credit card lenders, or both to manage their money, the report said. This number is expected to grow in the coming years as the technology for taking advantage of these options becomes more ubiquitous and consumers increase their trust in it more than they currently do.
"All signs point to mobile payments and online banking increasing at a rapid pace over the next few years," said Serra. "Chase continues to make a significant investment in mobile to ensure our customers have secure and seamless on-the-go technology to manage their finances."
If you're having trouble getting your finances under control, it may be helpful to do more than try to rein in your credit card debt. You should also check your credit report periodically to determine whether any unfair markings are having a negative effect on your credit score. If so, you may want to contact a credit repair law firm to remediate the problem.