Americans Continue to Deleverage with Credit Card Debt Below $5k per Person
The average national credit card borrower debt slid downward for the fifth consecutive quarter by 4.1% to $4,951, marking the first time the average has been below $5,000 since 2002, according to a report released today by TransUnion. This, coupled with the fact the national credit card delinquency rate for borrowers 90-plus days delinquent plummeted to 0.92% in Q210 (down 17.1% from the first quarter and 21.3% from last year) suggests that borrowers are saving more and spending more responsibly. "It appears that consumers have come to realize that material improvement in unemployment is unlikely in the short-term, and now is the time to balance saving versus spending," said Ezra Becker, director of consulting and strategy at the credit and information management and research firm. "It remains to be seen whether this dynamic will be short term or a new paradigm for consumer behavior." In July, Citi, in collaboration with Hart Research Associates, found that consumer spending decreased as most Americans said they didn't expect the recession anytime soon. Pat Conroy, vice president of Deloitte financial consulting firm, attributed that lull in spending, not to the halt of consumer shopping, but to consumers shopping in a smarter way. On the Citi survey, 9% of respondents said their credit card debt was "a major challenge or unbearable to manage." According to TransUnion, Alaska had the highest average credit card debt amount of $7,148 followed by Tennessee at $5,654 and Hawaii at $5,594. Iowa, North Dakota and West Virginia had the lowest debt averages at $3,792, $4,097 and $4,104 respectively. Almost 90% of national metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) showed a decline in the the amount of 90-day delinquent credit card payments since Q110. The area with the largest decrease was the Lewiston, Idaho-Wash. with a quarterly drop of 52.9%. Nevada had the highest incidence of credit card delinquency, 1.5%, followed by Florida, 1.24%, and Arizona, 1.11%. States with the lowest delinquency rates were North Dakota (0.54%), South Dakota (.055%) and the District of Columbia (0.61%). National credit card originations dropped almost 6.5% year-over-year, although 12 states showed an increase in originations quarter-over-quarter. Becker noted in the report that consumers are changing the way they look at credit cards. "Many consumers view available credit as a liquidity reserve that can be drawn upon in the event of a personal hardship," Becker said. "The last five quarters of consecutive decreases in credit card balances show that consumers continue to pay down their credit cards in response to economic uncertainty and high unemployment." Write to Christine Ricciardi.