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U.S. Consumers Paying Down Debt, Remain Cautious, Equifax Reports

February 21, 2012

ATLANTA — Equifax reported that nearly 60 of the top 100 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) hardest hit by credit card debt realized double-digit declines in the percentage of income owed to credit card companies — nearly 24 percent in some areas.

The cities with the most sizable reductions include Florida, Louisiana, Washington and California. Florida tops the list as the state with the most cities — five — realizing the largest declines.

"It is interesting that MSAs from some of the states hardest hit by the recession showed some of the biggest reductions in credit card debt," said Trey Loughran, president of Equifax's Personal Solutions business. “This suggests that consumers from these hardest hit areas have been especially cautious in their spending and diligent in paying down their credit card debt."

Comparing percentage of income owed to credit card companies between the fourth quarter 2010 and the same period last year, the following MSAs realized the largest year-over-year declines for the country: 

  • Fla.:  Port St. Lucie – 23.59 percent
  • Fla.:  Ocala – 20.97 percent
  • Wash.:  Bremerton-Silverdale – 20.62 percent 
  • La.:  Shreveport-Bossier City – 20.10 percent
  • Calif.:  Bakersfield-Delano – 19.05 percent
  • Fla.:  Northport-Bradenton-Sarasota – 18.44 percent
  • Fla.:  Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater – 18.43 percent
  • Fla.:  Lakeland-Winter Haven – 18.32 percent
  • Calif.: Salinas – 17.85 percent

The reduction in U.S. consumer credit card debt began a steady decline in the fourth quarter 2010 and continued through the end of 2011. Consumers owed up to 17 percent of their income to credit card companies in 2010.

Equifax reported that while total consumer debt (mortgage, auto, credit card, etc.) has declined nearly 11 percent from its peak of $12.4 trillion in October 2008, American households still owe more than $800 billion in debt to credit card companies.

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