Blame gasoline, food, jobs or just slow mail. The result is the same: More consumers are sending in their credit card payments late.
The American Bankers Association said Thursday that the percentage of consumers at least 30 days past due on their credit card bills rose to 3.4 percent in the first three months of the year from 3.28 percent in the final quarter of 2010.
Here's the heartening part: Delinquencies are still down from 3.88 percent a year ago and are trending under the 15-year average of 3.95 percent.
Still, the increase is slightly troubling, especially since consumers are missing other debt payments more often too. That's right. Indirect auto loans, mortgages, home equity loans and non-card revolving loans all recorded small rises in delinquencies in the first quarter, according to the ABA.
What's going on?
The start of the year saw unprecedented uprisings in the Middle East, which spooked investors and drove up oil prices, and, thus, gasoline prices. Add to that a nearly historic jump in the cost of food in February when prices surged almost 4 percent. And then there are jobs. Or the lack of them.
That's enough to fray anyone's wallet.
"With family incomes already stretched, even small increases in daily living expenses can be enough to derail the ability to meet debt obligations," says the trade group's chief economist James Chessen in a press release.
If you're one of the consumers who is struggling to pay your debts, check out Bankrate's slideshow on the stages of delinquency. It outlines what to expect from your lender when you miss a payment, what happens to your credit and what you can do at each stage of delinquency.
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