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Credit card spending bounces back in November

Jan 17, 2013 Philip Burgess

Consumer credit reports have been primarily positive in recent months, based on research by the American Bankers Association (ABA), which found that bank card delinquencies dropped to an 18-year low in the third quarter of 2012.

"The conservative approach consumers have taken to credit over the last several years has allowed them to better manage their debt and better position themselves for the future," said James Chessen, chief economist at ABA.

Debt collection agencies can expect to be busy for the foreseeable future. Between holiday shopping and these lower delinquency rates - the third-quarter mark of 2.75 percent was significantly lower than the 15-year average, 3.89 percent - November experienced a jump in credit card spending rates.

According to a recent report by the Federal Reserve, consumer debt grew another $16 billion from October to November, to a seasonally adjusted record $2.77 trillion. Credit card spending increased $817 million during that time span, marking the second time in 2012 the sector has grown for two consecutive months.

Michael Englund, chief economist at Actions Economics, told Bloomberg News that he expects household credit card debt to rise "for three or four months."

"People might be caught by surprise in January, when they see how much smaller their take-home pay is, and we might see some fuel for the consumer-credit number," Englund told the source.

Following its rapid two-year decline in 2009 and 2010, credit card spending has shown steady improvement since the start of 2011, according to insideArm. Total credit card debt in the U.S. stood at $858.4 billion at the end of November, and is trending up toward 2008's all-time high, at more than $1 trillion.