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Fun credit card stats

By Janna Herron ·
Friday, December 9, 2011
Posted: 3 pm ET

For the second month in a row, Americans put more on their credit cards. But let's be honest, we didn't go hog wild.

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve said revolving consumer credit (read: credit card debt) rose less than a half-percent to $792.3 billion in October, up from $792 billion the previous month. Of course, this uptick doesn't capture the shopping spree that Americans went on for Black Friday, which may show an even larger increase in the next release.

But it does show more consumers feel OK about carrying a little more revolving debt, even before the holiday frenzy started. (Apparently, consumers feel even more comfortable with taking on student loans and car loans, both of which jumped in October from the month before.)

Some analysts will say that means more Americans are struggling and turning to credit to fund basic purchases. Others will say this means consumers are more confident about the economy and don't feel as anxious about owing more.

TransUnion sort of falls in the first camp, but with a rosier take on it.

"In today's uncertain economy, consumers have found that credit cards are among their most valued assets due to the flexibility they provide," said Steve Chaouki, group vice president in TransUnion's financial services business unit said in a news release. "As a result, consumers have made a concerted effort to make on-time payments and maintain relatively low balances."

So shaky times encourage better consumer behavior? The proof is in the pudding.

Credit card delinquencies (those 90 days or more past due) have stayed far below levels seen in the last 15 years after reaching a 17-year low of 0.60 percent in the second quarter, according to the bureau. And TransUnion expects a similar performance next year.

The credit reporting agency released its forecast for delinquencies on Wednesday, which are mostly optimistic. The bureau expects credit card delinquencies to dip to 0.69 percent by the end of next year from 0.74 percent this quarter. (It also predicts a decline in mortgage delinquencies in 38 states next year.)

I, for one, hope the forecast sticks. And that means disciplined holiday shopping on your credit cards to start 2012 off right. So, stick to a budget, pay the minimum -- if not the entire balance each month -- and get those payments in on time!

Follow me on Twitter: @JannaHerron

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Save First
December 12, 2011 at 10:37 pm

"Will lower delinquencies result in lower interest rates?"

No, the reserves that were depleted to cover the defaults will need to be replenished by maintaining a high rate.

The reserves will be back to full just as the next recession begins, according to their calendar.

And repeat.

In a market with historically low savings rates and mortgage rates, I cannot understand why revolving credit is still incredibly high (index-based of course, less a few car manufacturer subsidized incentive rates).

December 09, 2011 at 6:03 pm

Will lower delinquencies result in lower rip-off... I mean interest rates? Or just go into corporate pockets?

I recall rates going up sky-high not so long ago due to "risks lenders take and increasing defaults". Now that they are at 15 years! low level, let's see how CC companies respond.

I don't care either way - all my CC balances paid in full every month, bit I bet there are plenty of those who pay 30% or close to it, and could really use that "trickle down" effect.