Are credit card issuers partly to blame for soaring delinquencies?


Credit card delinquencies in the Fitch's Prime Credit Delinquency Index set a new record for the index in March, up to a rate of 4.04 more than 60 days late through January, an increase from the previous month's record of 3.75%. Since record keeping started in 1991 the index is 30% above historical averages. But since that history doesn't include recessions in the early 1970s and 1980s, the records probably aren't as dramatic as that sounds.

Some credit card companies are now reporting delinquencies as high as 7%, according to "Since credit card delinquencies are indirectly tied to unemployment, and unemployment numbers continue to rise, analysts are predicting that the charge-off rate could increase to as much as 9%-10%. Charge-offs are bad for both the issuer and the cardholder," said Bill Hardekopf, CEO of Based on data he compiled, here's some of the hardest hit credit card companies:

* In January, American Express reported that the annual net charge-off rate (a measure of credit default) rose to 8.29% in January, up from 7.23% in December. The rate for loans at least 30 days delinquent increased to 5.28% from 4.87%.

* Also in January, Capital One's annual net charge-off rate was 7.87%, up from 7.71% in December. The rate for loans at least 30 days delinquent increased to 5.02% from 4.78%.

* Chase warned that net charge-offs could reach 7% for the first quarter.