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Since the end of the recent recession, many consumers have shied away from using their credit cards regularly and tried to keep their balances low, but that trend seems to have reversed itself in the past few months.

Just days after a report from the federal government showed that consumers' credit card debt rose 11.2 percent in May, another revealed that the amount of purchases put on borrowers' accounts for necessity purchases rose considerably as well. According to the latest SpendTrend report from the analysis firm First Data Corporation, the dollar volume on credit card purchases made in May rose 8.2 percent on a year-over-year, up from the 5.8 percent growth observed in April.

Meanwhile, dollar volume for spending on debit cards also increased even as those for checks dipped, the report said. The value of purchases made with checks fell 4.2 percent on an annual basis, while signature debit transactions and PIN debit rose 5.5 and 7.2 percent, respectively. Overall, the total amount of dollar volume growth across all purchase types rose 7 percent, up from 5.7 percent in April. At the same time, though, the number of purchases on those cards only grew 1 percent, though that was a significant increase from the year-over-year decline of 0.1 percent observed in April.

But the troubling aspect of this increase in credit card spending is that many consumers also cut discretionary credit card spending during this time, and instead used those cards to purchase things they needed in their everyday lives, the report said. For instance, hotels and restaurants both experienced dollar volume growth during the month, but it was down significantly from those seen in previous months, and indicates consumers were less willing or able to put nonessential transactions on their credit cards when they faced other, more pressing financial concerns.

"Overall May card spending growth was healthy but there is reason for caution," said Silvio Tavares, senior vice president and division manager of First Data Global Information and Analytics Solutions, which publishes SpendTrend. "During the month we saw consumers reducing the growth of their discretionary spending at retail merchants and increasingly resorting to credit for necessities."

Experts have long cautioned that putting purchases for necessities on a credit card is a sign of significant financial distress because it indicates that borrowers are having cash flow problems which can be difficult to overcome, and can create a vicious cycle. Consumers who have to borrow to meet their everyday needs often run up sizable balances which in turn lead to higher bills. These larger debt obligations then chip away at the spending money they have to contribute to other financial concerns, making them even more reliant on credit cards to cover their costs for daily necessities.

Consumers' spending habits had largely been limited since the end of the recession, but broadening credit qualifications from lenders in recent months have led to the extension of more accounts to subprime borrowers. Many experts predicted this would lead to increased card debt and delinquency nationwide.