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Keeping Track: Paying off credit cards

A positive trend is reversed by recession

Paying credit-card balances in full each month may be no small feat during an age in which most wallets are packed with ever more plastic. For 20 years, however, a steadily growing number of Americans were pulling it off.

Not anymore. The recession, mild though it was, appears to have reversed that trend. In June 2001, 44.6 percent of cardholders cleared their balances, compared with 42.1 percent just after September's terrorist attacks on the US. The result: more Americans piling up personal debt – and more revenue for credit-card issuers.

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A look at the percentage of cardholders who consistently pay off balances in full each month: