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Missed card payments ticked up in 2019, but remain well below recession levels

TransUnion data show serious card delinquencies hovered around 2% to close out last year, and could inch farther upward in 2020


TransUnion data show the percentage of cards with payments that are 90 or more days past due hovered around 2% for the fourth quarter of 2019 and are forecasted to be 2.01% this year. It’s the first time delinquencies have approached the 2% level since late 2010.

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The share of credit card balances that are seriously overdue has been steadily ticking up since hitting a historical low in 2015. Even so, card delinquency rates are sitting well below their post-financial crisis levels.

TransUnion’s annual forecast for the credit card market shows that the percentage of cards with payments that are 90 or more days past due is hovering around 2%, registering at 1.99% for the fourth quarter of 2019 and forecasted to be 2.01% next year.

It’s the result of inching slowly upward each year since hitting a low of 1.20% in 2015’s Q2. It’s also the first time delinquencies have approached the 2% level since late 2010.

But compare today’s 2% to the delinquency rates of 2009, when TransUnion began tracking this data on a quarterly basis. In the first quarter of that year, in the depths of the Great Recession, serious card delinquencies registered at 3.19%.

See related: What happens when you miss a credit card payment? 

To industry insiders, today’s delinquency rates are still consistent with a healthy consumer credit market, buoyed by a strong economy.

“The U.S. consumer is as strong as ever,” said Matt Komos, vice president of research and consulting for TransUnion’s financial services business unit. “More consumers are … increasing their balances in a measured manner, all while maintaining historically low delinquency levels. Low unemployment rates, continued wage growth and an overall sound economy are making this positive performance hold true.”

Also at play is how card issuers are making card offers. In 2007, 44% of new credit card accounts were opened by non-prime applicants. In 2018 and 2019, the share of non-prime card originations was just 38%, and is projected to be 39% in 2020.

TransUnion’s latest installment of quarterly credit market data and forecasts was released Dec. 12.

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