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Late payments fall in Q1

By Janna Herron · Bankrate.com
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Posted: 5 pm ET

The percentage of Americans overdue on their credit card payments by 90 days or more fell in the first three months of the year, along with their average outstanding balances.

The credit card delinquency rate was 0.69 percent of all accounts in the first quarter, according to credit reporting agency TransUnion. That's down from 0.85 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012 and from 0.73 percent a year earlier. The rate is just shy of the all-time low of 0.63 percent reached in the second quarter of last year.

Credit card debt shrunk 4.75 percent to $4,878 in the first quarter from $5,122 in the fourth quarter. Average balances were 1.69 percent lower than a year ago, too, when credit card debt totaled $4,962.

Delinquency rates and debt levels typically decline in the first quarter from the fourth quarter as consumers rein in spending and pay down holiday debt. However, this year's seasonal decline of 18.8 percent far outpaced the six-year average of 7.2 percent.

U.S. consumers still feel jittery about spending more on credit cards, even though they are borrowing more to buy cars or pay for college. Others are facing smaller paychecks after higher payroll taxes kicked in this year.

Issuers are continuing to seek out consumers with better credit and higher incomes, who are more likely to pay their bills on time. TransUnion found that the share of new cards that went to high-risk consumers was smaller in the fourth quarter of 2012 -- the most recent data available -- compared with the same period in 2011. Overall, credit card companies opened 1.6 percent fewer accounts than a year ago.

Follow me on Twitter: @JannaHerron

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