We can give ourselves a collective pat on the back for making progress on our credit card debt. The rate of decline for national credit card delinquencies in the first quarter of this year fell 19 percent compared to the final quarter of 2012.
TransUnion, the credit-rating firm that tracks the numbers, says that's a sharp drop, and it indicates that consumers are doing a better job of making their payments on time, and of getting a better handle on their debt.
You're considered delinquent on your credit card if you haven't made the minimum payment in at least 90 days.
The amount of credit card debt we carry is also declining, even though the pace is much slower. The average credit card borrower owes $4,878. That's down 4.8 percent from the previous quarter. Compared to a year ago, it's down 1.7 percent.
Part of the improvement is seasonal. TransUnion says delinquencies and balances due typically decline during the first three months of the year as many of us pay down the debt run up during our holiday shopping sprees.
Many of us also get tax refunds in the first quarter and use some or of all of that to reduce debt.
The decline in the delinquency rate is a sign that many people are getting a better handle on their personal finances, even though millions have still not fully recovered from the recession.
The states that have the highest average credit card debt loads are Alaska, Colorado, North Carolina and Connecticut. Those with the lowest debt levels are all in the Midwest: Iowa, Wisconsin, and North and South Dakota.
Bottom line, the improving numbers are important because delinquency is so damaging to a borrower's credit rating. And once we have our debt under control, we're in a better position to spend a little bit more, which will give a boost to the overall economy.
-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg
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