NEW YORK – Consumers are getting a handle on their credit card payments, data on defaults and late payments shows.

Five of the top six U.S. credit card issuers Thursday reported declines in June charge-off rates, the unpaid balances they gave up on collecting.

Only Citibank, the nation’s second-largest issuer with roughly 90 million cards in circulation, said writedowns and late payments increased last month. Citi’s charge-off rate rose to 11.46 percent of balances, up from 11.16 percent in May. Delinquencies, or payments that are 30 days or more past due, reached 8.58 percent at Citi, up from 8.42 percent in May.

Citi has the highest delinquency rate and second-highest default rate of the six banks.

The biggest improvement was reported by Chase, which has about 120 million cards in circulation, making it the top issuer in the United States.

Chase posted a greater than 1 percent drop in charge-offs, to 8.3 percent of balances, and a more modest decline in delinquencies to 4.3 percent in June, from 4.38 percent in May.

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said earlier Thursday that the charge-off rate is expected to keep improving. But he added it will take some time because of the sluggish economy.

Credit card defaults are improving, even given the sluggish economic recovery, for several reasons.

One reason is that much of the bad debt has already been written off — the Federal Reserve said the industry’s charge-off rate was just short of 10 percent of balances for the first three months of the year. That came after banks wrote off about $35 billion in unpaid balances last year.

Removing the debt that won’t likely be collected has helped make the remaining balances more resilient, said Jeff Hibbs, an analyst with Moody’s. “A lot of weaker borrowers are charged off, leaving behind pools of stronger borrowers,” he said.

Tighter lending standards also play a factor in keeping defaults down. Banks stopped lending to a broad swath of riskier customers in 2007, Moody’s analysts noted earlier this week. Consequently, the cards that are in circulation have been given to people who are more likely to keep up with their payments.

Banks also slashed credit limits on existing cards last year, in part as a response to new regulations that restricted interest rate increases. That means there’s less money available to borrow.

Credit reporting agency Experian said available credit on revolving accounts dropped to $3.28 trillion in the first quarter, significantly lower than the $4.46 trillion available in the first quarter of 2008.

Experian business consultant Kelly Kent said the lower level reflected all of these elements: tighter standards, limit cuts and charge-offs. It’s notable that balances have declined at a slower rate than available limits, he said.