Bad Card Debt Posts Biggest Jump In 7 Years

NEW YORK—More red flags are flying in the credit-card industry after a key gauge of bad debt jumped to the highest level in almost seven years.

Fed Flags

AS reported, the charge-off rate – the percentage of loans companies have decided they’ll never collect – rose to 3.82% in the first three months of 2019, the highest since the second quarter of 2012, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Intelligence.

However, loans 30 days past due, a harbinger of future write-offs, increased at all seven of the largest U.S. card issuers, Bloomberg added.

There’s been a “degradation” in credit quality for certain customers, according to Richard Fairbank, chief executive officer at Capital One Financial Corp., the country’s third-largest card issuer. Fairbank said some customers with negative credit events during the financial crisis are now seeing those problems disappear from their credit-bureau reports.

‘Might Not Paint Full Picture’

“We may be looking at data that might not paint the full picture of a consumer’s credit history,” Fairbank said during a conference call with analysts. “Part of the context for our caution has been not only how deep we are in the cycle but, also, this is the time period when there is less information than there once was.”

Bloomberg noted Capital One reported its first-quarter U.S. card charge-off rate climbed to 5.04% from 4.64% at the end of 2018. Discover Financial Services also reported its charge-off rate increased to 3.5% from 3.23% in the prior quarter.

‘Growing Wariness’

“The industry’s latest warnings build on developments in January, when fourth-quarter results showed charge-off rates near the lowest in decades were coming to an end. Competition for the highest-quality customers remains fierce, leading many issuers to spend more on marketing and rewards to gain market share with that group. But a growing wariness about the potential for a rise in bad debt has led many issuers to tighten underwriting,” Bloomberg noted.

Section: Standard
Word Count: 414
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Copyright Year: 2019
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