Consumers still reducing credit card debt

The amount of consumers across the country who were behind on their credit card debt declined once again at the end of last year.

The rate of delinquent credit card accounts controlled by major U.S. financial institutions declined to 3.28 percent in the final three months of last year, according to the latest quarterly statistics from the American Bankers Association. That was a decline from the 3.64 percent observed at the end of the third quarter, and the lowest level observed since the first three months of 2001. This rate was also well below the average over the last 15 years, which now stands at 3.92 percent.

ABA chief economist James Chessen attributed the declines to consumers’ ability to meet their monthly debt obligations, the report said. This came particularly because unemployment rates are now slipping, while household wealth has expanded in the last several months.

All major lenders in the U.S. have seen instances of both delinquent and defaulted accounts decline significantly over the last year, though many economists attribute this trend more to lenders striking seriously late accounts from their records, rather than more conscientious bill payment.