Surprise! Consumers are managing their credit cards quite well.

Consumers are paying their credit card bills on time at record levels and they're paying off more of their balance, according to new credit card data. Delinquenicies are at historic lows.

By , Contributor

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    Credit card logos are adhered to a window at the entrance of a shop in Cambridge, Mass., in 2012. Credit card delinquencies are at their lowest level since Fitch began tracking them in 1991.
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A record number of consumers are paying their credit card bills on time as well as paying a greater percentage of their monthly balance. These were some of the findings from the February data from Fitch Ratings.

The delinquency rate on retail credit card accounts declined in February to 1.61 percent, the lowest level since Fitch began its prime index in 1991.Delinquencies are defined as a credit card account over 60 days late. This February figure is 65 percent below the peak delinquency levels reached at the end of 2009.

Another all-time record was reached on the monthly payment rates (MPR) on credit cards. This figure represents the rate at which cardholders are paying back their balances. In February, this MPR climbed 1.09 percent to 24.83 percent, the highest level since Fitch began tracking this number.

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Charge-offs reached a six-year low. A charge-off takes place when an issuer stops trying to collect on a delinquent account. Fitch's Prime Credit Card Chargeoff Index declined from 4.18 percent in January to 3.88 percent in February. In addition, this February charge-off rate is 26 percent lower than February 2012 levels.

These encouraging figures are, to some degree, due to the changes made during the economic downturn. At that time, issuers canceled many risky accounts, cut credit limits on millions of others, and made it harder for people with fair or poor credit scores to be approved for new credit cards. In addition, a greater number of cardholders seemed to have learned to not charge more than they can pay off at the end of the month.

– Bill Hardekopf is founder of Lowcards.com, an online credit-card information site.

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