America's consumer credit drops due to the interplay of two major factors. While consumers are keeping their credit card usage to a minimum, credit providers on the other hand are steadily increasing their interest rates.
According to a weekly report on credit card rates, the national average annual percentage rate (APR) has steadily soared. On its third week, credit card providers managed to lift the country's total APR to 12.64 percent. Many major credit card companies choose to increase their APR on new credit card offers to protect themselves against the coming of new regulatory rules stated on the new credit card law as well as the tough economic situation.
Some regulations of the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 include stricter rules on finance charge and interest rate increases, payment allocation and fees, limits to over-the-limit fees, and billing statements and processing fees. With these new rules that were created and approved to limit the actions of credit providers, many have predicted that lenders would make the most of the remaining time left before the new law takes complete effect on 2010.
True enough, credit card providers have started to put pressure on their clients. Among many others, American Express, Chase, Citi, and Well Fargo are planning to increase their interest rates on most of their cardholders. This is especially due to the fact that their profits are threatened by the steady increase of unemployment. Basing on data, the number of people without jobs has gone to a 26-year increase of 9.8 percent in September.
In connection to this, a report coming from Fitch Ratings shows that charge-offs or the account reported by lenders when they are unable to collect from their clients, have also risen in August. It is predicted from these findings that charge offs will most likely continue to escalate parallel to unemployment in the coming months.
The increase in APRs on new credit card offers is justified by lenders as their way to align the new offers to their current clients' APRs. According to Desiree Fish, spokeswoman for American Express, they have increased the interest rates on their current clients' account in the past months, the increase in APRs on new credit card offers are necessary for consistency. "Our pricing has to be responsive to the business and economic environment," she adds.
Economic conditions don't look so very good for both consumers and credit providers. In his speech, William Dudley, New York Fed President said that the country's unemployment rate has gone too high and that consumers can not expect a robust economic recovery as desired. This is backed up by the Federal Reserve's monthly G.19 report showing that many consumers have become stricter in their credit card spending. The larger population has also decreased the amount of debts during the recession.
A seemingly positive note for the consumers comes from Bank of America. Despite the number of credit card providers stressing consumers on their interest hikes, the Bank of America gives word that their APRs and interests will remain on their current rates. Credit card holders with account on the Bank of America will have a more credit access between now and February 2010.