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For many, credit card debt outweighs savings

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More than 1 in 4 Americans have more credit card debt than emergency savings, a sign that many are still struggling to find firm financial footing despite the improving economy.

A new survey from Bankrate.com finds that 28 percent of Americans say they owe more in credit card debt than they have in their emergency funds or savings accounts. That's up from 24 percent last year, although the survey has a 3.5 percent margin of error.

About 51 percent said they have more in their emergency savings funds than they owe in credit card debt, the lowest percentage since Bankrate.com started tracking this data in 2011.

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Seventeen percent said have neither credit card debt nor savings for a rainy day, according to the representative survey of about 1,000 Americans conducted in early February.

Bankrate.com found that Americans in their prime earning years—ages 30 to 64—were most likely to have more credit card debt than emergency savings.

Greg McBride, Bankrate.com's chief financial analyst, said that's a reflection of the fact many Americans are still hampered by issues such as stagnant incomes and long-term unemployment.

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Although the jobs picture has been improving recently, more than 10 million Americans remain out of work—and more than a third of them have been out of work for 27 weeks or more and are considered long-term unemployed.

The total amount of credit card debt fell after the Great Recession as banks tightened lending standards and Americans tightened their belts. But revolving debt, which is mostly made up of credit card debt, has recently started creeping up again. The total hit $861.9 billion in December, according to the Federal Reserve.

Allison Linn is a reporter at CNBC. Follow her on Twitter @allisondlinn or send her an e-mail.


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