By contrast, in the five years before TransUnion’s study, consumers made about $2.1 billion more in purchases than payments, or a $75 billion turnaround in payment priorities from 2004 to 2009.
“This reversal is even more profound when you consider that alternative forms of revolving credit, e.g. home equity lines of credit, were far more accessible in 2004 than in 2009,” Becker said. “So while charge-offs have played a major role in lower credit card debt levels, it was not the only factor. Consumers were also paying down their debt across the risk spectrum.”
Average credit card debt in the U.S. declined more than $600, from $5,776 to $5,165 from the first quarter of 2009 to the first quarter of 2010. In the first quarter of 2011, average credit card debt was $4,679, a 10-year low.
The trend for 2011 is uncertain, with May showing the first monthly increase in credit card outstandings since December, although this increase might be followed by a pattern similar to recent trends where consumer turn around and pay off these new balances in a month or two.