American Express profit rose 12 percent in the fourth quarter, with more customers spending on their cards and much fewer opting to stop paying on their balances. AmEx also took in higher travel commissions and fees, although rewards spending – normally a big expense – went up 10 percent.

A national measure of consumer credit defaults – when borrowers stop paying back loans – recorded increases in most loan types for December, and a fourth straight month in first mortgage defaults. Bank card default rates were the only loan category to decline, from 4.91 percent in November to 4.60 percent in December, according to the S&P/Experian Consumer Credit Default Indices.