Debt defaults at pre-recession levels

Households have a better handle on all forms of debt

American households have a better handle on debt than at anytime since the lending spree that helped drive the U.S. economy into the Great Recession.

The default rates on credit cards, mortgages and car loans have fallen to levels not seen since 2006, before the Great Recession left many borrowers unable to keep up with their monthly payments.

The default rate has been falling since the economic recovery began 2009—in part because the improved economy helped debt-stretched households pay off their debt. But tighter lending standards means that fewer households have access to credit than they did before the recession hit.

By CNBC's John Schoen. Follow him on Twitter @johnwschoen or email him.