With employment problems and a struggling economy to deal with, more and more American consumers are seeing their credit cards as their last life line. Unfortunately, as credit debt problems continue and credit companies try to secure their future profitability when the credit card bill comes into play, credit is drying up at an alarming rate.
Equifax, a company specializing on providing credit data to credit companies and similar companies recently released data showing that access to credit cards have considerably diminished. Charge limits for existing credit cards have lowered significantly as well.
According to Equifax's data, the number of credit card accounts in the U.S. was 365 million accounts for last month. In comparison, the number of accounts in June last year was at 440 million accounts. Credit card companies have also drastically reduced the available credit, withdrawing more than $600 billion in available credit during the past year alone. In May, the available credit stood at less than $3 trillion.
While diminishing available credit, credit card companies are also lowering their risks on existing credit cards. Credit card balance limits are being lowered and balance chasing is beginning to be a real problem for credit cardholders. Credit card companies are also applying stricter rules on who can avail of credit cards.
Credit card companies are hoping that, by limiting available credit, they can minimize their exposure to risk and recover from the damage caused by the increasing number of delinquencies and defaults. However, judging by the numbers provided by Equifax, delinquencies still continue to rise. Last month, the figures for delinquencies in the U.S. were at 4.79%. Delinquencies have been on a steady rise for the past four years. Compared to figures from 2005, the delinquency rate has almost doubled.
As this continues, consumers are losing out on what is possibly their last financial lifeline, their credit cards. Even more worrying is that when the credit card bill becomes active after a few months, credit is going to be even more difficult to get.
Dann Adams of Equifax stated, “The last lifeline for many consumers is their credit card, and that lifeline is getting shorter”.
Still, there may be some respite from the continuing credit crisis. According to Equifax's figures, while the delinquency continue to rise, the pace has slowed somewhat. Adams said that mortgage delinquencies may be on the verge of peaking.
“We're hopeful we've seen the bottom and are setting the stage for a recovery”, Adams said. “You don't see it in the numbers quite yet”, he added however.