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Late Payments on Credit Cards Jump in October

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Consumers have been far more conscientious about making sure all their various loan and credit card bills are paid on time in recent months, but there was a slight uptick in late-stage delinquency in October.

The rate of credit card accounts that were 90 days or more behind on payments saw a marginal increase last month, rising to 1.71 percent of all balances from the 1.69 percent seen in September, according to the latest statistics in the Credit Card Performance Index from Fitch Ratings. This was the first time in 12 months that late-stage delinquency actually increased, but the rate is still well below the historical average of about 3 percent.

On the other hand, instances of both early-stage delinquency – that is, accounts 30 days or more late – and charge offs either held steady or improved once again last month, the report said. Those accounts that fell behind on payments for the first time now constitute 2.21 percent of all outstanding balances, about the same as September’s total.

But it was in charge offs where the most improvement came, the report said. In October, accounts written off by lenders as being uncollectable slipped to a five-year low, falling to 4.16 percent from 4.29 percent in September, the report said. This was also down 25 percent from October 2011, and 64 percent from the all-time high observed in September 2009. Only one of the nation’s largest credit card lenders – Citibank – saw an increase in charged off accounts last month, while those such as Bank of America, Capital One Financial, Chase and Discover Financial Services reported improvements.

Interestingly, the ways in which consumers handled their higher-risk accounts, those issued by retailers rather than traditional lenders, also improved, the report said. Charge offs on these accounts slipped to 6.57 percent from 6.83 percent. The new level was the lowest seen in the last 60 months, and about 50 percent lower than the all-time peak observed for these types of accounts, in mid-2010.

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Retail credit cards are typically riskier for lenders because they come with more relaxed borrowing standards, meaning that less creditworthy consumers may be able to open them, even when they cannot obtain another type of card. As such, the chance that they may default is considered somewhat higher.

Image: manwithface, via Flickr

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