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Equifax: Credit card debt down

By Janna Herron · Bankrate.com
Thursday, April 4, 2013
Posted: 4 pm ET

A second report this week provides proof that Americans continue to stay cautious with their credit cards.

Equifax said Thursday that total credit card debt declined less than one percent to $603.4 billion in January from the same month in 2012. The credit reporting bureau also found that U.S. consumers are using a smaller percentage of their available credit, called a utilization rate. In January, they used 21.97 percent of their credit limits, compared with 22.62 percent in January 2012.

Equifax saw a similar decline in total outstanding balances and utilization rates last year from January 2011.

The report also found that only one major city -- Houston -- experienced an increase in total credit card debt. The city's residents saw their outstanding balances grow 1.23 percent to $11.4 billion. Detroit and Phoenix booked the largest decline in credit cards at 2.21 percent and 2.05 percent, respectively.

The Equifax report comes two days after the American Bankers Association said that credit card delinquencies fell to an 18-year low in the final three months of 2012. The trade group found that 2.47 percent of all credit card accounts were 30 days or more past due in the fourth quarter, down from 2.75 percent in the third quarter. That marked the lowest level since the third quarter of 1994.

The appetite for charging on credit cards has remained relatively flat for the last year, even as consumers take on other debt loads, such as car loans and student loans. Stagnant wages and weak job prospects have made it harder for Americans to feel comfortable with charging.

Follow me on Twitter: @JannaHerron

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