Consumers are expected to further improve their credit management in 2010, but unemployment will hamper the efforts of many Americans to make their credit card payments on time.
Credit card delinquencies are expected to continue falling through next year, but at a much slower rate than in the past two years, according to a prediction from credit reporting agency TransUnion due out Tuesday.
By the end of next year, TransUnion expects 90-day delinquencies on credit cards issued by banks -- mostly those bearing MasterCard and Visa logos -- to drop to 1.04 percent.
The rate was 1.1 percent in the third quarter of 2009 and is expected to fall to 1.07 percent by the end of this year.
TransUnion uses payments that are three months behind as its predictor of default, because it would be so difficult for struggling consumers to make up those payments.
While the decline predicted for next year is a positive sign, it would be just a fraction of the drop seen over the past two years. Delinquencies peaked in the third quarter of 2006, at 1.42 percent.
TransUnion culls its figures from data found in more than 27 million individual consumer credit reports.
Ezra Becker, director of consulting and strategy in TransUnion's financial services group, noted that delinquencies lag behind other statistics like the jobless rate. Until more people are back at work, he said, there won't be any dramatic improvements in payments being made on time.
Arizona, one of the states hardest hit by the mortgage crisis and the recession, is the only state expected to see delinquencies rise next year, to 1.34 percent from a forecast of 1.33 percent for 2009's fourth quarter. California, Florida, and Nevada -- the other states that felt the subprime meltdown the most -- are expected to remain on top of the delinquency statistics. North Dakota and South Dakota will most likely continue to have the lowest delinquency rates.
Becker said the credit card reforms that take effect in February will have a "material impact on the credit card industry" next year. He expects it to be harder to access consumer credit as banks keep a tight rein on lending, but predicts new types of cards and other new products will become available as the industry adapts to the rules.
The new regulations "will force lenders to be more innovative in the products that they offer and how they manage customers," he said.