Americans avoid credit card default as lenders offer help to furloughed government workers

By , CardRatings contributor
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As the nation headed toward its own brush with its federal debt ceiling, relatively few Americans faced default on their personal credit cards. According to data released by S&P Dow Jones Indices and Experian, national credit card default rates rose only slightly during September. 3.14 percent of bank card balances fell into default status during the month, up from August's rate of 3.12 percent. The credit card default rate remained significantly lower than the 3.70 percent index level posted during September 2012.

Meanwhile, researchers commissioned by Discover found that more Americans plan on spending a little less this fall, even though more consumers think the economy continues to improve. According to results of the September Discover U.S. Spending Monitor, just 26 percent of survey respondents intend to increase their monthly spending. Although 30 percent of respondents told researchers that they feel the economy is getting better, only 43 percent of consumers anticipate having money left after paying their monthly bills.

September data closed before the government shutdown that started on Oct. 1, meaning impact from Washington's budget impasse won't show up in reports until later in the year. However, many major lenders mobilized extra customer service resources and expanded temporary hardship programs to help government workers and small-business owners directly impacted by furloughs and delayed payments.

Chase alerted its customers that the bank would help government employees mitigate the effects of suspended direct deposits. According to Chase officials, the bank waived credit card late fees for government employees affected by the shutdown. In addition, checking and savings account customers could request waivers for over limit fees triggered by automatic bill payments they were unable to cancel before learning about their payroll status. Furloughed employees first received notice of their status on Oct. 1, marking the start of the longest government shutdown since the Clinton administration.

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