03/08/2012 06:12 pm ET Updated Mar 09, 2012

Credit Card Debt Reached Record High

We’ve started spending money again--that is, money we don’t necessarily have.

Americans racked up $48 billion in credit card debt last year, according to a new study by, a website that compares credit cards. That’s 424 percent more than the debt that was incurred in 2010 and 577 percent more than in 2009, according to Card Hub.

Most of the spending took place in the last three months of 2011, which mirrors what happened in 2009 and 2010. The culprit: holiday shopping.

Increased advertising by credit card companies drove a lot of this spending. Mintel Comperemedia--a firm that researches advertising data--reported that Americans received 447 million credit card offers in the mail in November last year versus 346 million in 2010, as reported in The Wall Street Journal.

We'll likely see credit card spending drop off when the data rolls in for the first three months of 2012. New Year resolutions, holiday bonuses and tax refunds typically allow Americans to pay down debt at the beginning of the year, according to The Christian Science Monitor. But lately first-quarter pay downs have not kept pace, according to

Worried about credit card spending? has tips: If you're running up a balance, make sure you pay on time. Next, be sure to know your credit score. Finally, if the balance on your card is growing, leave the card at home--and if possible, pay in cash.