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Credit Card Debt, Delinquencies Fall in First Quarter

NEW YORK ( LowCards.com) -- Americans are doing a better job of paying off their credit card debt, and in a timely manner.

According to the latest report from TransUnion, the average credit card debt per borrower fell 1.7%, to $4,878, in the first quarter of 2013, down from $4,962 a year ago. It declined 4.8% from $5,122 in the fourth quarter of 2012 when consumers charged their holiday shopping.

The credit card delinquency rate -- defined as payments at least 90 days overdue -- dropped to 0.69% in the first quarter of 2013 compared with 0.73% a year ago. In addition, this rate represented a 18.8% seasonal decline from the 0.85% posted during the fourth quarter of 2012.

The study also showed a decline in new credit card accounts. The latest data from the fourth quarter of 2012 found new credit card originations dropped 1.6% from the year before, from 7.695 million new accounts to 7.570 million.

"We traditionally see credit card delinquencies and balances decline during the first three months of the year as many people pay down their holiday shopping balances or use their tax refunds to pay off their debts," said Ezra Becker of TransUnion. "The year-over-year improvement in credit card delinquencies is indicative of how consumers continue to value their credit card relationships."

The report found the four states with the highest credit card delinquency rates were all from the South: Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and Georgia. The lowest delinquency rates were South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana and Minnesota.

Alaska had the highest credit card debt per borrower, averaging $6,789, while Iowa had the lowest at $3,810.

Bill Hardekopf is chief executive of LowCards.com, which compares and rates more than 1,000 credit cards. He is the co-author of "The Credit Card Guidebook."

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