Credit card chargeoffs reported in September for the August collection period fell to $847 million, according to Fitch Investors Service Inc., which tracks securities backed by card loans.

In response, the Fitch Credit Card Performance Index fell to 6.59% last month from 6.91% in August. It was the largest one-month decline since August 1993, and put the index at its lowest level in seven months.

Although partly seasonal, the decline was broadly driven, with 72% of issuers reporting improved results, Fitch said. The improved asset quality is probably the result of tighter underwriting standards and intensified collection efforts, the rating agency said.

The Fitch index tracks the performance of credit card receivables backing $154 billion in asset-based securities. Banks, finance companies, and retailers take chargeoffs when repayment prospects are abandoned, typically when a card loan falls 180 days past due.

Master trusts reporting improved results for the August collection period were Advanta, Chase Manhattan, Discover, First USA, and First Chicago. Trusts reporting the largest increase in chargeoffs were Capital One, Citibank, Chevy Chase, Sears, and Wachovia.

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