Credit card delinquency rate jumps

Associated Press / June 8, 2009
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NEW YORK - Credit card holders who might have used tax refunds to pay down balances apparently spent the money elsewhere as the recession deepened in the first quarter.

That's one conclusion that may be drawn from data showing the delinquency rate for bank-issued credit cards rose 11 percent in the first three months of the year, according to credit reporting agency TransUnion.

The delinquency rate - card holders who are three months past due - jumped to 1.32 percent this year, from 1.19 percent in the first three months of 2008, TransUnion said.

The average total debt on bank cards also rose, jumping to $5,776 from $5,548 last year.

Balances typically rise in the first quarter, as holiday spending comes due, said TransUnion's Ezra Becker.

The credit card delinquency rate remains well below the 5.22 percent for mortgages in the first quarter, meaning card holders are trying hard to keep their payments current.

It's too early to tell how changes in credit card regulations will affect payment rates, Becker said.

Another unknown is what will happen when credit becomes more available.