Consumers continued to make more credit card payments on time during the month of May, rebutting experts' predictions that more troubling economic data might lead to an increase in instances of delinquency and default for the nation's largest lenders.
All six of the nation's top credit card lenders saw their delinquency rates decline during the month of May as consumers continued to get a better handle on their outstanding balances, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal. Capital One Financial, Discover Financial Services, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and American Express all saw instances of late accounts decline between April and May, continuing trends seen in nearly all of the last year and a half or more.
And along similar lines, all of those lenders but Discover also saw their charge off rates - that is, the number of accounts they handle that were so far behind on payments that the balances were written off as being uncollectable - tumble once again in May, the report said. But even Discover's increase, to 2.65 percent of all balances from 2.6 percent, was well below the seasonal increases typically seen at this time of year, and still hovering near the company's all-time low. Consequently, there is still room for optimism despite the small jump.
These changes came despite what many experts feared would be increases in instances of both delinquency and default, the report said. May saw a slower job market than expected, and that in turn led to speculation borrowers might start to fall behind on their payments, and many lenders also fear that economic difficulties abroad could spread to the U.S.
As a result, many have already begun to reign in their efforts to market new accounts to consumers, the report said. Tracking firm Mintel Comperemedia found that during the month of April, major lenders sent out just 260.6 million offers, a decline of nearly 9 million from March's total, and well below the 389.6 million seen in the same month last year.
"Issuers have adopted a more cautious approach due to an uncertain economic environment," said Andrew Davidson, senior vice president for Mintel Comperemedia, according to the newspaper.
Many experts have been predicting that an increase in credit card delinquency and default must come at some point in the near future simply because consumers can no longer continue to increase the rates at which they make payments on time. The logical bottoming out of these rates could be delayed, however, if lenders continue to slash the issuing of new accounts to subprime borrowers, which had been expanding in recent months. However, decreases in new offers may serve to further delay this reversal of recent repayment trends and allow consumers to continue cutting delinquency and default rates for all of the nation's major lenders.