Millions of consumers across the country are still being plagued by troublesome issues related to their credit card debt, and though many are doing better, a greater number of those dealing with negative credit card behavior are women.
Women are both more likely to mishandle their credit card accounts and simultaneously have fewer positive behaviors than men, according to a new study from the independent securities regulator FINRA. Perhaps the most troubling data to come out of the survey found that 60 percent of women and 55 percent of men typically carried a balance on their accounts from one month to the next - the most common credit misstep consumers made. However, 42 percent of women also regularly made the mistake of only paying the minimum amount required by their credit card lender every month, compared with 38 percent of men.
Similarly, women were more likely to face late fees than men - 29 percent versus 23 percent - and were also hit with penalty charges for going over their credit cards' spending limits, with 16 percent of women doing so compared with 15 percent of men, the report said. However, only 12 percent of women were known to take a cash advance on their credit cards, compared with 15 percent of men, the only negative behavior that fewer females engaged in. To that end, 38 percent of women surveyed said they had at least two of these problematic credit practices, while only 33 percent of men said the same.
Further, women were less likely to engage in positive credit card behaviors, with only 39 percent saying their balances were paid off in full every month, while 45 percent of men did the same, the report said. And when it came to finding the best deal available, just 31 percent of women said they comparison shopped to find the top card offer, compared with 37 percent of men.
And perhaps because of these credit card management mistakes, women also faced higher interest rates on these accounts than did men, the report said. For instance, women who were found to have a low financial literacy carried an average interest rate on their accounts of 15 percent, compared with 14.5 percent for men with similar literacy levels. And even those who had higher financial knowledge, women paid interest rates averaging 14.7 percent, compared with just 14.1 percent for men. Financial literacy among those polled was determined by asking participants questions about how to calculate interest rates, account for inflation, what happens to bond prices when interest rates rise, mortgage interest payments and risk diversification.
In general, though, consumers have been getting better at handling their credit card accounts, keeping balances lower and in most cases reducing them, even as card use continues to grow for most of the largest lenders. Recent months have seen nationwide credit card balances continue to tumble.