Consumer Comeback Blog

Survey: One in Five Americans Depends on Credit to Make Ends Meet

Whether you lost your job, experienced unexpected costs, or just live beyond your means, all too many Americans are finding themselves using credit to supplement their income rather than a last resort.

A National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) September poll of nearly 2,000 American adults showed that 22% of respondents said they use credit cards to make ends meet, and 46% would have to significantly alter their finances without a credit card. Only 23% said they would be able to maintain their lifestyle without using credit.

“Credit was intended to be a convenience, not a piggy bank to supplement income,” Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC, said in a press release. “Although the 22% of people indicating they could not make ends meet without credit is a minority among those polled, it is a significant minority,” Cunningham said. “People are masters at deceiving themselves and justifying spending.”

The NFCC 2012 Financial Literacy Survey revealed a number of financial red flags among respondents:

  • 33% of respondents do not pay their bills on time, up 5% from the 2011 survey.
  • 39% live beyond their income by carrying debt from month-to-month
  • 16% have been overdrawn in their checking accounts

To remedy these poor financial habits, the NFCC challenges consumers to at least try living without credit for one month and to seek a reputable credit counselor. The Department of Justice has a list of approved credit counseling agencies by state.