Credit card delinquency rates fell at major U.S. lenders in November as fewer consumers fell behind on their bill payments, signaling that they are recovering from the stress of the financial crisis.
But consumers are also avoiding racking up more debt on their credit cards, even during the holiday shopping season, in a sign that lenders will be struggling to rebuild their businesses for some time to come.
Credit card lenders Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Discover Financial Services and Capital One Financial Corp. said the rate of late payments fell to their lowest levels this year in November.
Delinquencies are the first sign that consumers are having trouble paying their bills and indicators of future losses. The steady decline in delinquencies this year at the top U.S. credit-card lenders signals that American consumers have recovered from the worst of the financial crisis.
Overall losses ticked up slightly at some lenders, including JPMorgan Chase and Capital One, although they were still much lower than their charge-off rates at the beginning of 2010. Losses — and loans — on credit cards usually rise at the end of the year, as consumers splurge during the holiday shopping season.
But they are reluctant to take on more debt this year. Only 16.3 percent of consumers polled used credit cards over the Black Friday weekend this year, down from 30.9 percent last year and an all-time low, according to a survey by America's Research Group and UBS.
Lenders file monthly credit-card performance reports with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Bank of America, the largest U.S. consumer bank, still has one of the nation's worst credit-card loss rates, but it fell to 9.92 percent in November from 10.15 in October and more than 13 percent at the beginning of 2010. The company's delinquency rate in November fell to 5.47 percent from 5.6 percent.
At the other end of the spectrum, JPMorgan Chase's delinquency rate fell to 3.68 percent in November, from 3.81 percent in October. Its charge-off rate edged up to 7.16 percent in November from 7 percent.
Discover, which lends directly to consumers but also competes with Visa Inc. and MasterCard Inc. to process credit card transactions for banks, said delinquencies fell to 4.15 percent in November from 4.34 percent in October. Its overall losses also fell, to 6.72 percent in November from 6.83 percent.
Capital One said accounts delinquent for at least 30 days fell to 4.26 percent in November, from 4.45 percent in October. Its charge-off rate rose to 7.56 percent in November from 7.26 percent, but was still much improved from over 10 percent in January.
Citigroup Inc. and American Express Co. are also expected to report the monthly performance of their credit card portfolios later on Wednesday.
Shares of the six major lenders were mixed Wednesday morning, with American Express up about 1 percent at $46.64 and Capital One down about 1 percent at $41.68.
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