Sunday, May 10, 2009

Banks bracing for huge credit card debt by consumers

When you have high unemployment, people look and move into survival mode. Survival mode is making sure the bare minimums are kept and everything else falls to the waistside. Credit cards though important are not essential when folks are on the unemployment roll, thus delinquency will prevail.

It used to be easy to guess how many Americans would have problems paying their credit card bills. Banks just looked at unemployment: Fewer jobs meant more trouble ahead.

The unemployment rate has long mirrored banks’ loss rates on card balances. But Eddie Ward, 32 and jobless, may be one reason that rule of thumb no longer holds. For many lenders, losses are now starting to outpace layoffs.

Mr. Ward, of Arkansas, lost his job at a retail warehouse in April and so far has managed to make minimum payments on his credit card debt, which he estimates at $15,000 to $20,000. Asked whether he thinks he will be able to pay off his balance, he said, “Not unless I win the lottery.”

In the meantime, he said, “I’m just doing what I can.”

Experts predict that millions of Americans will not be able to pay off their debts, leaving a gaping hole at ailing banks still trying to recover from the housing bust.

The bank stress test results, released Thursday, suggested that the nation’s 19 biggest banks could expect nearly $82.4 billion in credit card losses by the end of 2010 under what federal regulators called a “worst-case” economic situation.

But if unemployment breaches 10 percent, as many economists predict, the rate of uncollectible balances at some banks could far exceed that level. At American Express and Capitol One Financial, around 20 percent of the credit card balances are expected to go bad over this year and next, according to stress test results. At Bank of America, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase, about 23 percent of card loans are expected to sour. read more here.....

And this is why banks have down rated credit for millions of Americans, even if you are paying your bills on time. And those paying just the minimum are getting credit revoked at rapid speed and interest rates jumping at warp speed. Is this fair? No, which is why credit card reform is essential in this country, banks should not have the right to raise interest rates on consumers who are doing the RIGHT THING. This is greed of the utmost on the banking and credit card industry.

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