Though studies have shown that many consumers across the country continue to struggle with credit card debt even as the economy slowly improves, new data suggests that in many cases, women tend to have a tougher time with their outstanding balances than men.
Women were both more likely to demonstrate "negative" credit card behaviors and less likely to exhibit "positive" ones than their male counterparts, according to new data from the independent securities regulator FINRA. For instance, while 55 percent of men carried a balance from one month to the next, 60 percent of women did so, possibly indicating that women were more likely to put larger charges on their cards than they could afford to pay off in one month. That was the biggest credit misstep either sex made.
Further, while just 38 percent of men made the mistake of paying only the minimum required by their lenders, 42 percent of women did the same, the report said. Further, 29 percent of women faced a late fee, a mistake suffered by only 23 percent of men. At the same time, 16 percent of women were hit with fees for going over their cards' limits, and 15 percent of men did the same.
The one negative behavior in which women were actually better off than men was taking a cash advance, the report said. In all, just 12 percent of women did so, compared with 15 percent of men. And women were also more likely to deal with more than one of the above negative behaviors at any one time, with 38 percent doing so. Only 33 percent of men had a similar problem.
Meanwhile, men were more likely to engage in positive credit card behaviors, the report said. In all, 45 percent of men tended to pay their balances in full every month, and 39 percent of women did the same. And when seeking new credit cards, 37 percent of men comparison shopped for the best available deal, compared with only 31 percent of women.
Women likely to pay more for credit mistakes as well
Regardless of consumers' financial literacy, women also typically faced slightly higher interest rates on their credit cards than men did, the study found. For instance, women with low financial literacy carried an average interest rate of 15 percent on their credit cards, compared with 14.5 percent for men with less knowledge. Meanwhile, the average interest rate on cards for those with more considerable financial wherewithal was 14.7 percent for women and just 14.1 percent for men.
Consumers who want to get the best available rates on any line of credit they seek should take the time to order copies of their credit reports. By doing so, they may be able to find unfair markings that can have a negative impact on their credit scores, and work with credit repair companies to clear up the issues.