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Americans' Debt Just Exceeded $17 Trillion for the First Time — Here's the Smartest First Step to Fix Your Finances Debt hit new record balances in nearly every category, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported.

By Amanda Breen

boonchai wedmakawand | Getty Images

Americans are seeing increasing amounts of debt amid an uncertain economy.

Household debt balances reached a new high of $17.05 trillion in the first quarter — shooting up $148 billion from the fourth quarter of last year — the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported Monday.

Related: How to Manage Personal Credit Card Debt as an Entrepreneur

Debt increases touched nearly every category in the first quarter, but record balances were recorded for mortgages, home equity lines of credit, auto loans, student loans, retail cards, and additional consumer loans, per CNN.

One area that didn't see a dramatic uptick? Credit card balances, which held firm at $986 million. But it's not all good news: It's the first time in more than 20 years that credit card debt hasn't decreased, per NY Fed researchers.

And credit card debt remains a major threat to Americans' personal finances in the context of increasing interest rates. The average credit card balance clocked in at just over $5,900 in 2022, per Experian, and some Americans report using credit cards to cover basic necessities.

Related: How to Lower Your Personal Loan Payments | Entrepreneur

That's why senior industry analyst for Bankrate Ted Rossman says it's worth paying down credit card debt first.

"For the foreseeable future, we're stuck with high credit card rates, high balances, and more people carrying debt," Rossman told CNN. "My advice would be to pay down credit card debt, as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. I know it may be easier said than done, but 0% balance transfer cards are still abundant to pause that interest clock for up to 21 months."

Amanda Breen

Entrepreneur Staff

Senior Features Writer

Amanda Breen is a senior features writer at Entrepreneur.com. She is a graduate of Barnard College and received an MFA in writing at Columbia University, where she was a news fellow for the School of the Arts.

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