Credit Card Delinquencies and Debt Continue to Fall
Americans are doing a better job of paying their credit card bills on time, and they're carrying less debt, says credit bureau TransUnion.
In the latest round of results of its quarterly analysis of U.S. consumers who actively use credit, TransUnion found that the national credit card delinquency rate dropped from .63 percent in the second quarter of 2012 to .57 percent in the second quarter of 2013, which nearly matched the all-time low of .56 percent, which occurred in the second quarter of 1994. This rate is the ratio of borrowers who were 90 or more days behind in paying their credit card bill.
The average amount of debt borrowers had on their cards dropped to $4,965 this quarter, which is only a six-dollar difference from last year's average. However, this is a $90 increase from the first quarter of this year.
"Despite recent improvements in the employment situation, consumers continue to value their credit card relationships as a primary means of liquidity. This is best demonstrated by the historically low credit card delinquency rates we observe today," said Ezra Becker, vice president of research and consulting in TransUnion's financial services business unit, in a statement. "Credit card debt also remains relatively low, and while we did observe a quarterly rise in debt, we would need to see a few more quarters of increases to describe it as a significant trend. Having said that, the data supports that consumers will continue to prioritize their credit card relationships over other credit obligations, and delinquencies should remain low into the near future."
TransUnion also looks at its data on a state-by-state basis. This quarter it found that borrowers in the South were the most likely to be late with credit card payments. Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and Louisiana led the nation in delinquencies, with Mississippi having the highest rate at .87 percent.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, states that were further north had the lowest delinquency rates. North Dakota led the way with .35 percent, followed by Minnesota, Montana and South Dakota.
Only two states, New Hampshire and Indiana, experienced year-over-year increases. New Hampshire's rate rose 9.4 percent to .58 percent delinquency, while Indiana had a 1.5 percent increase to .66 percent.
The top states in the rate of delinquency decline were Oregon, with a 23.7 percent decline to .49 percent, followed by Nevada with a 21.3 percent decline to .86 percent and Colorado with a 21.1 percent decline to .66 percent.
In terms of states with the highest and lowest amounts of debt per borrower, Alaska led the way with $6,910, followed by Colorado, Connecticut and North Carolina. Iowa had the lowest amount, with $3,885, followed by North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska.
Rhode Island had the largest increase from last year, rising 3.1 percent to $5,102. Louisiana and Oklahoma rounded out the top three. Oregon also had the largest debt decline, falling 2.8 percent to $4,773, followed by Nevada and Idaho.
While Americans still do carry a fair amount of credit card debt, a recent poll suggests they are comfortable doing so. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) conducted an online poll of 1,630 individuals in July to gauge consumer attitudes toward debt. Eighteen percent of the respondents felt that having monthly credit card debt is a "fact of life and is a responsible way to manage my finances."
"This data suggests that not only are many Americans using credit cards to fund a lifestyle their income can't support, but they are comfortable doing so," said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC in a statement.
The poll also showed that 61 percent of respondents felt paying off credit card balances in full each month was the only way to responsibly manage personal finances.