US consumers whipping out the credit cards again

American consumers are running up debt this year and are particularly active with their credit cards.

Consumer loans have jumped 11.2 percent in 2016, more than double the growth last year of 5.4 percent and close to double the highest pace since 2000, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch. The previous highest was 6.1 percent in 2002.

What's more, the pace of growth is being led by revolving debt, or the credit cards that Americans have been working to pay down over the past several years. For the first time since the financial crisis, revolving debt (up around 13 percent) is outpacing consumer loans, which have gained just shy of 10 percent, BofAML reported.

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The gains come as bank credit is up 7.1 percent, just ahead of the 7 percent in 2015 and 6.7 percent in 2014. As part of that, loans and leases have gained 8.9 percent, a solid rise from the 7.5 percent and 6.6 percent respective increases in the two previous years, BofAML reported.

BofAML credit strategist Hans Mikkelsen said the gains come "despite the big economic uncertainties last fall and into the first part of the year."

The loan and lease growth, he said, was "a better reflection of U.S. banks' (and borrowers') optimistic outlook on the U.S. economy."

The numbers, which are culled from the Federal Reserve and BofAML's data base, seem to buck some continuing trends. Personal spending grew just 0.1 percent in February, while January's 0.5 percent growth was revised down to 0.1 percent.

The personal savings rate also was at 5.4 percent in February and has been on a mild upswing, according to Fed data.

However, auto sales have been strong, up 6.7 percent year over year, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.