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Greg McBride

Greg McBride: Credit card debt vs. savings

By Greg McBride · Bankrate.com
Tuesday, March 1, 2016
Posted: 6 am ET

Which do you have more of: credit card debt or emergency savings? You might be surprised by how people answered that question.

It turns out that only half of Americans have more money put aside for emergencies than what they've got tied up in credit card bills.

MYBR-1132-Emergency-Fund-or-Credit-Card-Debt-Graph

A lack of progress

A new Bankrate report found that just 52% of Americans have more in emergency savings than they do in credit card debt. This is down from 58% last year and there has been zero progress in the past 5 years.

Alarmingly, the percentage of Americans with no credit card debt, but no savings either, jumped from 13% percent to 21% percent -- a new high. Without any emergency savings, these households are one unplanned expense away from incurring high-cost debt.

The good news

There are a couple of bright spots, however. Only 22% of Americans have more credit card debt than emergency savings, the lowest in the past 6 years. And millennials were more likely than any other age group to have more savings than credit card debt.

Millennials grew up amid plummeting stock markets, record joblessness and soaring foreclosures, so they tend to be disciplined about saving money and wary when it comes to credit cards.

In an ideal world, all of us would have adequate emergency savings and no credit card debt, but many Americans have yet to reach that point.

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