NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Credit-Card Debt Still High, But Slowing

May 24, 1999

Americans appear to be taking their credit-card debt obligations more seriously. While the total of consumer debt outstanding is still extraordinarily high, the pace of new debt has slowed substantially and delinquency rates are falling sharply.

  • U.S. consumer debt exceeded $1.32 trillion in March.
  • In this year's first quarter, the average American credit- card holder paid off 14.34 percent of outstanding principal each month -- the highest rate ever recorded in the 10 years Moody's Investors Service Inc. has tracked such numbers.
  • The delinquency rate for payments 30 days or more overdue fell to 5.11 percent in the first quarter from 5.42 percent in the year-earlier quarter.
  • A Federal Reserve report shows that revolving credit -- which includes credit-card and department store accounts -- fell 4 percent in the first three months to $562.8 billion, as consumers pared down their credit-card debt.

Even personal bankruptcy filings are slowing. Although filings hit a record 1.4 million in 1998, the growth was up only 4 percent after three years of double-digit increases.

Source: Tristan Mabry, "Consumers Chip Away at Debt Mountain," Wall Street Journal, May 24, 1999.


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