Credit Card Delinquencies Decline In 4th Quarter

NEW YORK — A sign that Americans are managing their credit better as the recession deepens.

One of the big consumer tracking agencies says the number of people three months behind on bankcard payments fell 11 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008 from a year ago. People also added less than 2 percent to their balances during the holiday shopping season.

More on-time payments came even in the face of worsening job losses, the continuing foreclosure crisis and tighter credit, according to TransUnion.

Another sign of consumer responsibility: shoppers didn’t spend as much on gifts they couldn’t afford during the holidays as in years past.

But while the numbers are positive for individuals who are running up less debt and potentially paying fewer late fees on their credit cards, they also reflect difficult economic issues, like the sharp decline in retail sales and the tight credit market.