CFPB report explores patterns of revolving and repayment of credit cards accounts

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The CFPB released a report that explores patterns of revolving and repayment of credit card accounts throughout the U.S. The report offers insights on how consumers use their credit cards as a line of credit rather than as a payment mechanism.

The main findings from the report include:

star3 Two-thirds of actively used credit card accounts carry a revolving balance. Once people pay less than the balance due and begin to revolve on an account, they continue to pay less than the balance for about 10 months on average, with approximately 15 percent revolving continuously for two years or more. The longer a balance is revolved on an account, the higher the chances that people will continue to revolve a balance on that account.

star3 Accounts show variation in repayment patterns. Some revolvers appear to take on debt on a particular account and then make regular payment on this debt. The report found that others revolve a more-or-less constant amount on an account for long periods with little pay down until a lump-sum payment of the balance in full. This suggests there may be a variety of factors underlying revolving decisions among households; furthermore, the variation in repayment profiles is observed for both high and low credit score accounts, which implies that repayment is not easily predicted by cardholders’ credit score at the outset of revolving.

star3 There is substantial geographic variation in revolving rates and duration of sustained debt periods. This variation endures after accounting for differences in credit scores just prior to revolving and is stable over time. This suggests that perhaps factors other than risk or market structure, such as for example preferences or local norms, may play a role in how and why individuals choose to revolve balances on their credit cards.

The report also explained how credit cards have become important resources for managing household finances and how credit cards provide a safe and convenient method of paying for goods and services, with added benefits such as rewards. Credit cards also provide an open-ended line of credit from which to borrow, often at rates that are higher than other forms of available credit.

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