U.S. credit card charge-offs rose again through January, reaching levels close to the peaks set last fall, according to data Fitch Group’s Fitch Ratings released Wednesday.

Fitch’s index for charge-offs on outstanding credit card receivables measured through Jan. 31 rose to 11.37%, 15 basis points below the peak of 11.52% Fitch reported in September 2009.

The charge-off rate has varied in recent months, falling to as low as 10.09% in November.

 Fitch attributed the recent charge-off rate increase in part to JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s “payment holiday” offered last year, which enabled consumers to suspend one credit card payment and pushed more charge-offs into the recent period.

The delinquency rate on credit card accounts at least 60 days past their due date through Jan. 31 was 4.5%, four basis points below the peak of 4.54% set in December 2009.

 The modest improvement in card delinquencies was largely attributable to Bank of America Corp. actions, including its use of credit card loan-modification programs, Fitch said.

Michael Dean, Fitch managing director, said in a statement that although credit card delinquency levels have stabilized recently, they remain high on a historical basis.

“Late-stage delinquencies are still trending in the 4% range industry-wide, which is keeping charge-off levels in the double digits. Until we see some meaningful improvement in employment numbers, consumer delinquencies and defaults will remain elevated at or near these levels,” Dean said.

Fitch said it expects the U.S. unemployment to peak at 10.4% during the second quarter of this year and remain above 10% throughout 2010. 

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