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Consumers Continue to Improve on Credit Card Payments

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The rate at which consumers fell behind on their various credit card payments, either for the first time or so severely that the account had to be considered uncollectable, slipped overall once again in March, indicating borrowers continued to get a better hold of their finances.

Only two of the nation’s top six credit card lenders saw the rates at which they had to charge off extremely late credit card balances as uncollectable increase in March, and even then, both did so only slightly, according to a report from Dow Jones Newswires. Those two lenders, Capital One and JPMorgan Chase, saw charge offs rise even as their delinquencies—payments 30 days or more behind—slipped once again. Capital One’s charge off rate rose to just 3.85 percent of all balances, up a mere point from February’s 3.84 percent. Chase said its charge offs jumped to 4.4 percent at the end of the first quarter, up from the 4.29 percent seen at the end of last year.

Experts have attributed increases in Capital One’s default rate to its acquisition of HSBC’s credit card business, the report said. This is because that portfolio includes a large number of subprime and store-branded accounts, the latter of which tends to perform slightly worse than traditional card offerings.

Meanwhile, the other four major lenders—American Express, Bank of America, Citi and Discover—all saw instances of delinquency and default at least hold steady, if not improve considerably, the report said. For instance, AmEx, which is the largest lender in the U.S. by spending and tends to have a wealthier customer base, saw its delinquencies fall to just 1.3 percent of all accounts in March, down from 1.4 percent in February, while its charge offs held steady at 2.4 percent.

In fact, consumers have been so conscientious about paying down their credit card bills that rates of both delinquency and default recently slipped to levels not seen in several years, according to a separate report from Fitch Ratings. Delinquent accounts that were more than 60 days behind on payments dipped to 2.23 percent in March, the lowest in six years, while defaults fell to a 52-month low of 5.18 percent.

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Paying bills on time is crucial to maintaining strong credit health, and consumers who do so may put themselves in a position to obtain more valuable lines of credit in the future.

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