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Americans getting 'house of cards' in order

A man holds up some credit and debit cards

JEREMY HOBSON: Now to some encouraging news in the world of personal finance here in the U.S. The rate of late credit-card payments hit a 17-year low last quater. The level of payments that were 90-days or more past due slipped to just 0.6 percent.

Here's our senior business correspondent Bob Moon.


BOB MOON: Maybe it's because Americans have cut back on the number of cards in their wallets. Maybe it's tighter credit standards. Or it could just be we're finally getting our house of cards -- credit cards, anyway -- in order.

At NAB Research, banking analyst Nancy Bush says it's all that, plus banks have cut back limits on existing cards.

NANCY BUSH: There's a combination of new responsibility, new determination on the part of Americans to not consume beyond their means, and number three, a continued, very frantic pace of clean-up by the banks.

So what does this say about the overall economy? If consumers are finally getting ahead of their debt, will they start spending again and spur the economy back to life? Bush says until a few weeks ago, she might have been more optimistic about that.

BUSH: You know, if you're not sure you're going to have a job in another year, then you probably are not going to go out and, you know, go "whoo hoo" and spend a lot on your credit card.

TransUnion, the credit reporting company that issued the new report, says it expects the delinquency rate to continue drifting lower.

I'm Bob Moon for Marketplace.

About the author

Bob Moon is Marketplace’s senior business correspondent, based in Los Angeles.
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