Card delinquencies hit 22-year low

Fred O. Williams
July 9, 2013

Bank card delinquencies hit their lowest levels since June 1990 during the first quarter of this year, reflecting a stronger economy and tighter financial management by consumers, the American Bankers Association said July 9.

"Many consumers have learned the hard lessons of recession, and have redoubled their efforts to keep debt at manageable levels," ABA chief economist James Chessen said in a statement announcing the results of the association's Consumer Credit Delinquency Bulletin .

Late payments on bank cards fell to 2.41 percent of all accounts during the quarter, the lowest level in 22 years, ABA said. The rate was 2.47 percent in the previous quarter.

Accounts that are late paying by 30 days or more are counted as delinquent. The 15-year average rate for delinquencies was 3.87 percent of accounts.

The results reinforce previous findings that consumers are doing better with card debt. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York said previously that card balances and delinquencies both reached record lows for the post-financial crisis period during the first quarter.

The strong card payments were part of a broad improvement in consumer loan delinquencies, according to the banking industry association's figures. Eleven of 13 loan categories experienced lower delinquency rates during the quarter.

Chessen said that household wealth levels, boosted by higher prices for homes and stocks, also contributed to the strong repayment of consumer loans. Further improvement in the job market and continued discipline by consumers will be necessary for late payments to remain at low levels.

That discipline may be wearing down, as card balances leaped 9.25 percent during May , according to the Federal Reserve's G.19 consumer credit report.

"The future pace of delinquencies depends on a steadily improving labor market and strong financial health for consumers," Chessen said in the statement. "This will allow consumers to more easily meet their debt obligations."

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