By Eileen AJ Connelly, AP Personal Finance Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Credit card defaults dropped so sharply this year that banks may pick up their pace of opening new accounts in 2012.
While it's not likely that card companies will open the floodgates and hand out cards as readily as they did four or five years ago, potential customers with moderate credit scores should find cards easier to obtain in the coming year. That's thanks in part to the strides that existing card holders have made in making payments on time.
The top six credit card issuers reported data Thursday for November defaults and late payments, and the trends point to the restoration of normal patterns after huge spikes resulting from the economic crisis, according to Moody's Investors Service.
Under normal patterns, late payments tick up during the end of the year and — especially — the first few months of each new year, then shift down as people pay off holiday purchases and receive a cash infusion from income tax refunds.
Some credit card issuers companies, notably Citibank and Capital One Financial Corp., reported increases in defaults for November. But the rates are still near historic lows. And companies like American Express Co. and Discover Financial Services said their default rates remain well below their traditional levels.
Moody's analyst Jeff Hibbs said defaults, which are known as charge-offs in the industry, are likely to keep falling.
"We certainly think there's more room to run in terms of the charge-off rate to go lower," he said.