Rising credit card debt boosts bank profits

Consumers are carrying near-record levels of credit card debt and the banking industry is a big beneficiary, according to the Washington Post.

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Card companies have increased interest rates and fees as credit balances rise.

Industry experts say that will cost consumers who carry balances and don't pay off their bills every month.

Credit card sales were up 10 percent at JPMorgan Chase and 5 percent at Citigroup in the third quarter.

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Profit at card issuers are rising. Visa's earnings rose 17 percent this fiscal year and 11 percent at MasterCard in the third quarter, according to the Post.

Consumer are holding their own in this strong economic environment. While balances have gone up, delinquency rates remain relatively low. About 6 percent of consumers were late on a payment this year compared with 15 percent in 2009, according to WalletHub.

The industry has thrived despite 2009  legislation that, among other things, limited the number of fees consumers could be charged.

FED CUTS RATES, CITES WEAKENING EXPORTS AND LOW INFLATION

Democrats introduced legislation earlier this year to cap credit card interest rates at 15 percent, a steep reduction from current levels, which met immediate resistance from the industry.

A record 182 million Americans have credit cards compared with 147.5 million in 2010, according to TransUnion, and are carrying more than $1 trillion in debt.

Despite several Federal Reserve rate cuts, credit card interest rates have risen. The average interest rate is 17.3 percent, near a record high.

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If you have a lower credit score you maybe looking at an interest rate up to 25.37 percent, according to Creditcards.com.