Credit card delinquencies surge, almost 1 in 5 users maxed out: Research

(The Hill) -- Credit card delinquencies are on the rise, as research from the New York Federal Reserve shows nearly a fifth of borrowers are “maxed-out.”

According to the new report, issued by the bank’s Center for Microeconomic Data, household debt rose by 1.1 percent, or $184 billion, in the first quarter of the year, bringing the total to $17.69 trillion.

“In the first quarter of 2024, credit card and auto loan transition rates into serious delinquency continued to rise across all age groups,” Joelle Scally, regional economic principal within the household and public policy research division at the bank, said in a statement. 

“An increasing number of borrowers missed credit card payments, revealing worsening financial distress among some households,” Scally added.

The nationwide aggregate credit card utilization rate was found to be 23 percent in the first quarter, in line with previous quarters. But a closer look at those figures revealed stark differences in utilization rates.

Almost half of borrowers “used less than 20 percent of their available credit in the first quarter,” a breakdown of the report explained, compared to 18 percent of borrowers that used “at least 90 percent of their available credit.” The latter group was dubbed “maxed-out borrowers.”

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Before the coronavirus pandemic, the report found that less than a fourth of balances associated with those borrowers had gone delinquent per year. By comparison, last year saw roughly a third of the balances go delinquent.

Younger borrowers were also found to be more likely to be maxed out along with card users who resided in “low-income areas.”

The research found that aggregate delinquency rates rose during the first quarter, with 3.2 percent “of outstanding debt in some stage of delinquency at the end of March.”

“Delinquency transition rates increased for all debt types. Annualized, approximately 8.9% of credit card balances and 7.9% of auto loans transitioned into delinquency,” a release detailing the report stated. “Delinquency transition rates for mortgages increased by 0.3 percentage points yet remain low by historic standards.”

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