Continued stress in the housing market combined with general weakness in the overall economy contributed to an increase in the delinquency rates for credit cards during the first quarter of 2009, according to the American Bankers Association's Consumer Credit Delinquency Bulletin. More than two million Americans lost their jobs in the first three months of the year with more than 6 million jobs lost since the recession began.
During the first quarter (seasonally adjusted), credit card delinquencies rose 23 basis points to 4.75 percent (seasonally adjusted. This is slightly above the five year average delinquency rate of 4.40 percent, compared to 4.52 percent in the previous quarter, for this category. (The record was 4.81 percent in the second quarter of 2005.) However, the balances on those delinquent accounts rose dramatically, up 108 basis points to 6.60 percent (n.s.a.) of the value of all outstanding bank card debt, marking a new record.
Reflecting continued weakness in the housing sector, delinquencies for the home equity category also hit record highs: home equity loan delinquencies rose 49 basis points to 3.52 percent of accounts, and home equity lines of credit delinquencies rose 43 basis points to 1.89 percent of accounts. Warning signs of overextended credit include:
- Paying only the minimum payment month after month;
- Being out of cash constantly;
- Being late on important payments such as rent or mortgage;
- Taking longer and longer to pay off balances; and
- Borrowing from one lender to pay another.
For others having trouble paying down debts, ABA advises taking action - sooner rather than later - by following these tips:
- Talk with creditors - hiding only makes the problem worse;
- Don't charge more purchases until your problems are solved;
- Avoid bankruptcy - it's a short-term solution with long-term consequences; and
- Contact Consumer Credit Counseling Services at 1-800-388-2777.