Report: Credit Card Users Being More Responsible Than Ever

Responsible Credit Card ConsumersIrresponsible use of credit sent the economy crashing just a few years ago, but it seems that now the pendulum has swung back in the opposite direction. According to the latest data from Fitch Ratings, consumers are being more responsible than ever with their credit. Delinquencies are at historic lows with more people paying off their balance in full every month and fewer carrying a balance.

The data
Specifically, delinquencies, defined as accounts over 60 days late, declined to 1.61%, the lowest level since Fitch launched its prime index in 1991. That represents a 65% decrease from the peak levels reached at the end of 2009.

In addition, the monthly payment rate, which measures the rate at which cardholders are paying back their balances, rose 1.09% to 24.83%, the highest rate that Fitch has ever recorded.

In more good news for credit card companies, charge-offs–which occur when an issuer stops trying to collect on an delinquent account–reached a new six year low of 3.88%. To give that number some historical context, charge-offs have typically been around 6% since 1991, peaking at 11.4% in early 2010 after the housing bubble popped.

Are consumers getting smarter?
While we can hope that the American consumer has gotten smarter about using their credit in the aftermath of the recent financial crisis, it’s just as likely that we can attribute these improved metrics to the tightening of credit by the banks. According to the latest report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the number of credit card accounts sits currently at around 383 million, down from a peak of nearly 500 million in 2008. Naturally, the remaining credit card accounts after such a contraction are of higher quality.

Going forward, as banks get hungrier for profit, it seems likely they will begin extending credit more freely again. That should be good news for consumers, as long as they have learned their lessons from the last credit crisis.

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