Cash is king — again

a fistful of cash
a fistful of cash

The numbers are rolling in, and by all accounts, Americans have finally bucked up and told their credit cards, "It's not me, it's you." While consumer spending has inched up a bit, it's not the big credit card networks that are benefiting, which means we're opting more often to spend the money that's already in our pockets. According to this article, credit card usage this year is down for Visa, MasterCard and Discover, while it's flat for American Express.

We're still using our debit cards -- 15% more this year than last -- but we're not financing everything from breakfast to bedroom sets anymore. While this may hurt us in terms of our short-term recovery, since consumer spending is estimated to make up around 70% of our total economy, in the long run it will make us stronger, says Richard Barrington, personal finance expert for MoneyRates.com.

"It's indicative of the fact that consumers are spending less," Barrington tells WalletPop. "They're paying down debt and household debt service ratios are coming down. What that means is some debts are being written off, but to a large extent, people are trying to live within their means," he says.