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The New Economy

Credit card debt rises to nearly $5,000 per borrower

Borrowing on credit cards is up 4.9 percent from a year ago, TransUnion reports.

By Bill HardekopfContributor / November 21, 2012

In this July 18, 2012 file photo, credit card logos are seen on a downtown storefront as a pedestrian passes in Atlanta. Americans cranked up their use of credit cards in the third quarter of 2012, racking up more debt than a year ago, while also being less diligent about making payments on time, an analysis of consumer-credit data shows.

David Goldman/AP/File

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Americans' credit card debt is rising again and they're not as diligent about paying on time, signs perhaps that credit trends are returning to normal.

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The average credit card debt per American borrower increased to $4,996, up 4.9 percent in the third quarter from the year before, according to a report released yesterday from TransUnion, a credit reporting agency. The pattern fits 2011, when debt fell in the first two quarters and rose in the last two.

Late payments at least 90 days overdue also slightly increased to 0.75 percent during the July-September period, up from 0.71 percent in the third quarter of 2011. The late payment rate was 0.63 percent in the second quarter of 2012. But the late payment rate is rising from historically low levels.

TransUnion reported 36 states had increases in their credit card delinquency rates from a year ago while nine other states and the District of Columbia posted decreases. There were no changes in five states.

Average credit card debt is likely to climb again in the fourth quarter as consumers use credit cards to pay for holiday shopping.

The increase in credit card debt may reinforce the latest research from the Federal Reserve that shows bankers have eased up slightly on lending standards and demand is increasing for credit cards. During the past three months, 17 percent of all banks and 26 percent of large banks reported a moderately stronger demand for credit card loans, according to the Federal Reserve Senior Loan Officer Survey. In addition, nearly 17 percent of large banks eased the credit standards for applying for a credit card.

– Bill Hardekopf is founder of Lowcards.com, an online credit-card information site.

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