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>>I suspect, like others here, that the fairly recent tendency to use credit cards for grocery and gasoline purchases explains some of it, just replacing cash use, and doesn't necessarily imply debt increase at all (but human nature dictates it would have some of that result), but a 20% increase in one year does seem rather staggering, hard to explain by just that kind of thing alone.

I use to be a cash only guy. Only use credit cards for traveling or establishing a credit record. Then in this new economy, it now costs me money to obtain cash! And if I use a credit card, I get money back! It costs the same either way. In addition, by using a credit card I track all my expenditures and can download all these transactions into Quicken and fine tune my budget with more ease than ever (allowing me to invest more). With this much financial incentive, I'm surprised that the growth in purchases hasn't increased even more. 20% growth is just discretionary money being spent with a credit card. It would be interesting to see how much spending using checks has decreased. I think that is the flip side to this growth in credit card use.
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