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Borrowers across the country continued to feel better about their financial standing in the month of January, but at the same time once again turned their attentions to reducing their outstanding credit card debt.

The total amount of consumer credit taken on by Americans increased significantly in the month of January even as borrowers made concerted efforts to slash the amount they owed on their credit cards, according to the latest statistics on consumer credit released monthly by the Federal Reserve Board. In all, consumer credit rose 8.6 percent to a nationwide total of more than $2.51 trillion, up from December's total of more than $2.49 trillion.

That change came even as consumers' card balances slipped 4.4 percent to a total of $800.9 billion, the report said. That's down from December's $803.8 billion, and a reversal of a trend that had seen balances rising for several months. However, some experts had cautioned that this increase was just the result of a slightly more significant ramp-up in consumer borrowing seen every year around the holiday shopping season.

The reason for the significant increase in consumer credit is that borrowing on nonrevolving credit - installment loans to pay for college or auto purchases, but not counting mortgages - surged a staggering 14.7 percent to more than $1.71 trillion, the report said. That's up from the slightly more than $1.69 trillion observed at the end of 2011, and approaching pre-recession borrowing levels.

During the recession, consumers shied away from all types of borrowing as managing finances became more difficult. But at the same time, lenders were forced to charge off a significant amount of consumer balances that were several months behind on payments.