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Americans are increasingly unable to keep up with credit card bills. An Associated Press analysis of financial data from many major credit card companies showed double-digit percentage increases in bill payment delinquency.
Accounts at least 30 days late increased 26% over the previous October to $17.3 billion—a $4.5 billion increase. Discover Financial Services Co. reported a jump of 25,716 accounts that were more than 30 days late over November 2006. The number rose at least another 6,000 during October of this year.
Accounts more than 90 days overdue saw the greatest increase; some lenders reported a 50-plus% increase over the number from the same month in the previous year.
According to the Federal Reserve Bank, Americans carry $920 billion in credit card debt. Credit card companies saw an 18% rise in defaults (in which companies write off debt, deeming the cardholder unable to pay) over the previous October. These defaults total about another $961 million that is owed but cannot be repaid.
Experts say the expanded debt is partly the product of the subprime mortgage crisis in the U.S., while other economists point to the deep-rooted American attitude that credit card debt is “no big deal.”
“The desires of consumers to want, want, want, spend, spend, spend—it’s the fabric of our nation,” Howard Dvorkin, founder of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., told the Associated Press. “But you always have to pay the piper, and that can be a very painful process.”