Credit Card Borrowing, Deliquency, and Personal Bankruptcy Credit Card Borrowing, Deliquency, and Personal Bankruptcy

July 27, 2000

Credit card delinquencies and personal bankruptcy rates increased during the mid 1990s, despite the strength of the U.S. economy. Even though per capita income rose during that period, household borrowing grew at an even faster pace. The rise in revolving debt-mainly credit card loans-was especially noticeable, and the increase in personal bankruptcy rates was also substantial. This article examines the relationship between consumer credit card borrowing, delinquency rates, and personal bankruptcies. The author looks at developments involving borrowers, the demand side, and lenders, the supply side.

Credit card loans have been extended to higher-risk consumers over time. Using data collected in the 1998 Survey of Consumer Finances, the author examines the effect of credit card borrowing on consumer payments delinquency and the relationship between credit card debt and the increase in bankruptcy rates. She also tests whether credit card lenders face an adverse selection problem, whereby banks making worse credit card offers attract more risky customers and have higher delinquency and charge-off rates than others. She finds that banks that charge higher interest rates and some fees have higher delinquency rates, but not higher charge-off rates. Moreover, banks that charge higher interest rates were found to have higher net revenues from credit card lending than other issuers.

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