Bankruptcy filings continue to decline despite skyrocketing credit balances

Bankruptcy filings declined when the coronavirus pandemic began in March 2020 as revolving credit balances sharply dwindled. Although revolving credit balances have abruptly risen in 2021, bankruptcy filings have continued to steadily fall.

Personal bankruptcy filings fell 29.1% for the year ending Sept. 30, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. The annual Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy filings totaled 418,400 in 2021, compared with 590,170 in 2020.


There are several reasons why bankruptcy filings have fallen since the pandemic began. For one, consumers have been carrying less revolving credit card debt during this time. Increased government benefits like stimulus checks, foreclosure moratoriums and eviction bans may have also “eased financial pressures in many households,” according to the U.S. Courts report.

But recent data from the Federal Reserve shows that revolving credit balances have risen 7.7% nationwide in 2021 alone, which means that some consumers may be considering filing for bankruptcy to discharge unsecured debts like credit cards and personal loans.

Keep reading to learn how to decide if you should file for bankruptcy, as well as your alternative debt repayment options like debt consolidation loans. If you decide to borrow a personal loan to pay off debt, visit Credible to compare interest rates across multiple lenders.


Rising credit balances haven’t yet spurred bankruptcy demand

Outstanding revolving credit balances dramatically declined at the beginning of the pandemic, according to the Fed, as Americans aggressively paid down credit card debt and avoided taking out new loans. But as the nation’s economy hums back to life and unemployment rates recover to pre-pandemic levels, consumers are returning to their old borrowing habits.

Revolving credit balances have grown nearly every month of 2021, rising from $961.5 billion in January to $1.04 trillion in November. This suggests that consumers are carrying higher balances on their credit cards, car loans and personal loans.

Revolving credit balances, April 2020 - present


For consumers who are struggling to repay their debts, bankruptcy can provide much-needed financial relief. But there are other debt repayment options, like credit counseling, debt management plans and debt consolidation loans, which is why it’s important for debtors to know their options.

If you’re considering borrowing a personal loan for debt consolidation, visit Credible to view your estimated terms for free without impacting your credit score. This can help you decide if this option is right for you.


How to decide if you should file for bankruptcy

Bankruptcy is a legal proceeding that’s meant to help consumers regain control of their finances. There are two types of bankruptcy for individuals: Chapter 7, which is known as a liquidation bankruptcy, and Chapter 13, also known as a reorganization bankruptcy.

Filing for bankruptcy may help you repay your debts on more favorable terms and reduce the amount of debt you owe. But it comes with serious penalties, including a long-lasting blemish on your credit report. Plus, the bankruptcy process is a public court proceeding that typically requires the services of a bankruptcy lawyer. Because of these consequences, bankruptcy is often seen as a last resort.

Despite its drawbacks, there are circumstances when filing for bankruptcy is worthwhile, according to The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC). Here are a few reasons to declare bankruptcy:

  • Your outstanding debts are larger than your net worth and assets
  • Your income isn’t sufficient to meet your financial obligations
  • Creditors are suing you over your debts, resulting in wage garnishment
  • You’re considering borrowing money to pay for bills and necessary expenses
  • Your home is in danger of foreclosure

Any of the situations above may be reason enough to file for bankruptcy, but you should also consider your alternative debt management options. You may be able to recover your financial situation without resorting to bankruptcy. Visit Credible to get in touch with a knowledgeable loan officer who can help you navigate your debt consolidation options.


Alternatives to filing for bankruptcy

Bankruptcy can provide a fresh start for consumers who are struggling to manage their debts, but it’s not the only way to get out of debt. Consider your alternative debt repayment methods:

  • Negotiate with your creditors. If you’re struggling to make mortgage payments, call your loan servicer to discuss your options like mortgage forbearance or a loan modification. If you owe money to the IRS, enroll in a payment plan or settle for less than you owe with an offer in compromise (OIC).
  • Enroll in credit counseling. A nonprofit credit counselor can teach you how to cope with your debts through financial education. A credit counseling agency may also help you enroll in a debt management plan (DMP) and negotiate with your creditors on your behalf.
  • Consolidate credit card debt. It may be possible to get a lower rate on your credit card debt through a balance transfer or debt consolidation loan. You’ll need good credit to qualify for the best offers on balance-transfer credit cards and personal loans for debt consolidation.

You can visit Credible to compare offers on balance-transfer cards and debt consolidation loans for free with a soft credit inquiry, so you can see if this debt management strategy is right for you.


Have a finance-related question, but don’t know who to ask? Email The Credible Money Expert at and your question might be answered by Credible in our Money Expert column.


Subprime Lenders Are Setting Up Car Buyers To Fail: Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports took an in-depth look at the practices of two of the largest subprime auto lending banks in America, and the results were grim: Predatory lenders focus their services on poorer people in desperate need of a car because they make money on defaults as well as successful loans. Subprime lenders have built a win-win scenario where the only losers are the already struggling borrowers themselves.

The report focused on the scammy actions of Credit Acceptance and Santander Consumer USA, both of which have been the subject of investigations in their shady practices. Indeed, we reported last year that Credit Acceptance was under investigation in 44 states. CR did a deep dive and found a system that sets up borrowers to fail because, either way, the lenders still make a profit:

Moreover, even when Santander and Credit Acceptance have a borrower who defaults, they still manage to make a profit, the state attorneys general in Mississippi and Massachusetts have alleged in lawsuits filed against the lenders, using a variety of tools to “squeeze as much money out of delinquent borrowers as possible,” as one put it. (Santander and Credit Acceptance reached settlements in those cases, neither admitting nor denying wrongdoing.)

Those methods, according to a Consumer Reports review of regulatory filing and legal documents, sometimes start with lenders working with dealers to mark up cars sold to low-income borrowers more than they do for customers with better credit, or to upsell them into pricier cars they can’t afford. Lenders are also accused of structuring the loans and their arrangements with dealers in ways that all but guarantee a profit even if borrowers default, the attorneys general say.

And when borrowers fall behind, as often happens, lenders aggressively work to collect debts through repossession and wage garnishment, according to allegations in the documents CR reviewed.

“There are some lenders with a business model, it seems, that expects some level of repossession, perhaps even desires some level of repossession,” says Pamela Foohey, a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City, who has published several studies on auto lending.

In the the third quarter of 2021, Credit Acceptance and Santander reported net profits of $250 million and $763 million, respectively, over the preceding three months.

In other words, it’s good business writing bad loans.

And default, as many do. These subprime lenders argue the high APR is because they’re taking on more risk, but that doesn’t actually pan out. Borrowers with lower credit scores often receive higher APR rates from auto loan companies than if they went through a traditional bank or credit union. Those with the higher APR were also more likely to default. When defaults happen, the impact on people’s lives is catastrophic. Take this case from the CR report:

In one example from the lawsuit, a consumer with a low income purchased a Nissan Altima sedan with a six-year loan from Santander that carried a $445 monthly payment and an interest rate of 21 percent. Her monthly income at the time: roughly $1,200.

“She worried the monthly payment was too high,” the state attorney general’s complaint said, “but she needed a car immediately and convinced herself she could handle the payments.”

That turned out to be too optimistic. She fell behind on the bill, allegedly leading Santander to hound her with relentless calls to collect. Eventually, she succumbed to bankruptcy to avoid having the car repossessed.

It can be an all consuming debt that can take decades to be cleared from. Author of the CR story, Ryan Felton, also looked into these loans when he worked here at Jalopnik. He found over 2,000 people had cases for wage garnishment by Credit Acceptance brought against them 20 years after the loan was issued in the city of Detroit alone. In a country where the majority of Americans need a car to get around these practices are, pardon the pun, highway robbery.


US warns that chip shortage could shut down factories

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. supply of computer chips has fallen to alarmingly low levels, raising the prospect of factory shutdowns, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday.

Companies that use semiconductors are down to less than five days of inventory — a sharp drop from 40 days in 2019, according to a department survey of 150 companies. The chips used in the production of automobiles and medical devices are especially scarce.

Demand for chips, the department said, was up 17% last year from 2019.

Citing the results, the Biden administration called on Congress to pass stalled legislation that would provide $52 billion for domestic semiconductor production.

“The semiconductor supply chain remains fragile, and it is essential that Congress pass chips funding as soon as possible,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said in a statement. “With sky-rocketing demand and full utilization of existing manufacturing facilities, it’s clear the only solution to solve this crisis in the long-term is to rebuild our domestic manufacturing capabilities.”

Chip shortages have disrupted auto production and driven up car prices, contributing significantly to a 7% year-over-year increase in consumer prices last month — the hottest inflation in four decades. Still, it would take years for semiconductor factories to begin operation.

Credits: AP News

Credit card interest rates will jump as feds try to cool demand, drive down inflation

The Federal Reserve is on a mission to cool off demand and drive down inflation. And yes, you’re going to face higher interest rates on your credit cards as a result.

Fed rate hikes tend to be passed along to credit cardholders within a month or two. If the Federal Reserve makes its first move to raise short term rates at its next policy meeting in mid-March, as some expect, you could be looking at higher credit card rates as soon as April or May.

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve gave a clear signal that the central bank will likely raise its short-term, federal funds rate in March. The Fed does not have a scheduled meeting in February.

“Card issuers have some flexibility, particularly with new customers, but credit card rates typically track the federal funds rate quite closely,” said Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst for and

Most consumers already know that it’s not cheap to borrow by pulling out plastic. Or swiping the credit card app on your smartphone.

The rate hikes ahead should give consumers one more reason to pay off their high-cost credit card debt — and put a limit on how much they’re willing to borrow by tapping into a line of credit on a credit card.

The average credit card rate is 16.13%, according to data from Credit card rates vary based on your credit history with those with lower credit scores paying higher interest rates on their credit cards.

“Credit card debt is already very expensive and it will probably become even more costly in 2022,” Rossman said.

Credit card margins have already been creeping up, he said. For example, he said, the current 16.13% average is 12.88 percentage points above the prime rate, which is close to a record-high spread. The prime rate today is 3.25%.

Most credit cards today don’t offer fixed rates. They’re variable rates that go up or down as short term interest rates move up or down.

“The high end of the range — what people with lower credit scores pay — averages around 24%,” Rossman said.

The annual percentage rates, for example, for an AARP Travel Rewards Mastercard from Barclays range from 16.74% to 20.74% to 25.74%, based on your creditworthiness. A 0% introductory APR is being offered for 15 months on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening. The balance transfer fee is either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

The redesigned My GM Rewards Card has a 0% introductory rate for the first nine months only. After that intro rate, the annual rate on the card will range from 14.99% to 24.99%, depending on your credit score. The interest rates are variable, and could go up or down in the future based on shifts in the prime rate.

How much more will it cost to borrow on a credit card? 

If some forecasts are accurate, the Fed could raise short term rates by a quarter of a percentage point as many as four times or more in 2022. That means that interest rates on credit cards could ultimately go up on average to around 17% or higher by year end.

Those with lower credit scores could be looking at rates of 25% or higher on average by year end.

It’s not a huge extra cost for borrowers but it is extra money that’s going out the door. And some borrowers might want to reconsider how much they’re using their credit cards if they’re not paying off the bill in full each month.

The minimum monthly payment would go up by $4 a month — or $48 a year — if someone sees their rate go up from 16.13% to 17.13% and has a balance of around $5,525 on their credit card.

“The real issue is that credit card rates are already very high,” Rossman said.

If someone has a rate of 16.13% on average now, just making only minimum payments would keep someone in debt for 194 months — or a bit more than 16 years.

And the consumer in this example would end up paying $6,160 in interest if they had $5,525 in credit card debt at 16.13%

At 17.13%, it would take a consumer 197 months to pay down the debt by making only minimum monthly payments and the overall cost of interest goes up to $6,577 — or an extra $417 and that would amount to a nearly 7% increase in the cost of interest over many years if you’re only making minimum payments.

Here are some options consumers can consider:

Are there any 0% rates left? 

The 0% introductory offer: Some credit cards continue to offer a 0% introductory offer or a 0% balance transfer offer, even as the Fed is set to raise rates.

A balance transfer can help you pay down debt while the 0% rate remains in place, say for nine months, 15 months or even up to 21 months in some cases.

A long 21-month 0% offer is being made on the Wells Fargo Reflect, Citi Simplicity and Citi Diamond Preferred cards, according to

After the 0% promo, Wells Fargo Reflect charges 12.99% to 24.99%, Citi Simplicity charges 14.74% to 24.74% and the Citi Diamond Preferred charges 13.74% to 23.74% currently.

Many consumers may be confused and wrongly believe that they’d get stuck paying a higher rate on all their of their debt if they don’t pay off the entire balance while the 0% rate is offered, according to a survey by LendingTree.

That’s often true with deferred-interest programs, such as when you open a credit card to buy furniture or cover a medical procedure. Interest is retroactively applied to your entire original purchase amount, even if you leave just one dollar unpaid by the time the regular rates hit under a deferred-interest plan.

But consumers aren’t going to be billed for interest retroactively if they do not pay off their card’s entire balance during while a 0% balance transfer rate is in place. You’d only owe the higher rate on the remaining balance.

Sometimes, the 0% transfer rate only applies to balance transfers made within the first 60 days or first 120 days of opening the account. Pay very close attention to the various rules in place.

You also typically need to have good credit to qualify for the 0% limited offer, such as a FICO score of 670 or higher.

Also pay attention to any balance transfer fees. Some cards have an intro balance transfer fee of 3% or 5%. You could be paying $150 to $250 to transfer a $5,000 balance. But it could be worth it, if you make sure to pay down a good chunk of the debt during the 0% offer before higher rates hit.

You are often required to make a minimum monthly payment each month while the 0% intro rate applies. That’s typically based on 1% of your balance.

“Let’s say you owe $5,000 and you only make minimum payments of 1% of the balance each month,” Rossman said.

“You would still owe $4,049 at the end of those 21 months. And then the interest rate could skyrocket.”

To truly pay down your debt, you’d need to make far more than the minimum payment during the 0% time frame.

Another warning: If you miss a payment, it’s possible with some cards that the 0% rate will no longer be available to you and you’ll face much higher rates sooner than imagined.

Should I try to get a personal loan? 

Look into low-cost personal loans: Personal loans are available at banks, credit unions and online lenders and some offer rates as low as 2.5% to 5.99% APR.

Many consumers are turning to such loans to consolidate their credit card debt and lock in lower rates.

But unlike a credit card, you’re going to have to pay off a personal loan during a set period of time so monthly payments would be higher than that for a credit card.

One offer noted that at 5.99%, you’d pay nearly $24 a month for each $1,000 borrowed for 48 months. Payments are the same each month, based on a fixed interest rate and a fixed repayment timeline.

But here’s the deal, higher rates are charged to those who have weaker credit scores. Some personal loans on the market now can be 20% to nearly 36%. The current average is around 10.28%, according to And you do need to factor in the cost of fees; some have fees, some don’t.

Rossman noted that origination fees are common, ranging from nothing to up to 8% of the amount being borrowed.

You’d want to try to improve your credit score before borrowing by making sure to pay bills on time and avoid borrowing too much on your credit cards, keeping outstanding balances below 30% of your total credit limit.

What if I feel like I can never get out of debt? 

Talk to a nonprofit financial counselor: Look at your credit card statement for information on how to contact a credit counseling service. Some statements offer a number that will give you contact information for various services.

Farmington Hills-based GreenPath Financial Wellness, a nonprofit counselor, gives details on its services at Or you can call 800-550-1961 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Monday through Friday. The offices are currently closed for in-person visits.

The first rate hike by the Fed is expected to be small. But borrowers need to take into account that more rate hikes are likely ahead and the costs of borrowing will be going up.


U.S. auto sales to slip in January on slim inventory, higher prices

Jan 26 (Reuters) – U.S. auto retail sales are expected to dip in January as reduced manufacturing due to the Omicron variant, supply chain constraints and global inflation caused prices to soar amid high demand, consultants J.D. Power and LMC Automotive said.

Retail sales of new vehicles could fall 8.3% to 828,900 units from a year earlier, a report released by the consultants on Wednesday said.

“The volume of new vehicles being delivered to dealerships in January has been insufficient to meet strong consumer demand, resulting in a significantly diminished sales pace,” said Thomas King, president of the data and analytics division at J.D. Powers.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused bottlenecks in supply chains, driving up costs for everything from labor to raw materials.

With consumer demand exceeding supply, new vehicle prices continue to go up. The average new-vehicle retail transaction price in January is expected to reach $44,905, the previous high for any month was in December 2021 at $45,283.

U.S. business activity grew at its slowest pace in 18 months in January as a winter surge in COVID-19 infections worsened worker shortages at factories, though demand remained strong.

Total new-vehicle sales for January 2022, including retail and non-retail transactions, are projected to reach 932,099 units, a 15.6% decrease from last year.

“The start of 2022 faces risk from a multitude of drivers that have been affecting the market for several months. The addition of geo-political concerns with a potential Russia-Ukraine conflict is adding additional economic risk,” said Jeff Schuster, president, Americas operations and global vehicle forecasts, LMC Automotive.

The seasonally adjusted annualized rate for total new-vehicle sales is expected to be 14.1 million units, down 2.6 million units from 2021.

Despite the added risk, the consultants expect 2022 global light vehicle sales to improve by 6% to 86.2 million units.

(Reporting by Kannaki Deka in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)

Credits: Yahoo Finance:

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