By Jill Jaracz


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Credit trends could be returning to normal, says a recent analysis of consumer-credit data, as Americans are letting their credit card debt rise, and they aren't being as diligent about making payments on time.

According to TransUnion's quarterly report of credit card statistics, the average credit card debt per borrower increased on a yearly basis by 4.91% to $4,996 in the third quarter of 2012, compared to $4,762 in the same time period last year. When comparing the data to the second quarter of 2012, credit card debt is up .50 percent.

The national credit card delinquency rate--the ratio of borrowers who are 90 or more days past due on payments--also rose slightly to .75 percent in the third quarter, compared to .71% in the third quarter of 2011. This delinquency rate is also up compared to the seasonal low of .63 percent in the second quarter of this year.

"Credit card delinquencies are following a pattern similar to what we observed in 2011, with declines in the first two quarters of the year followed by an increase in the third," said Ezra Becker, vice president of research and consulting in TransUnion's financial services business unit, in a statement. "That seasonal consistency is encouraging. Credit card debt trends in 2012 also are mirroring 2011, with a decrease in the first quarter followed by two increases over the next six months. With both delinquencies and debt levels remaining quite low relative to historical norms, we are confident in the continued stability of credit card usage patterns in the short term."

The states with the highest percentage of year over year credit card delinquencies include Mississippi, West Virginia, Alabama and Louisiana, while North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota and Montana have the lowest rates of delinquencies. Massachusetts, West Virginia and Alaska experienced the most growth in delinquencies in the third quarter of this year compared to last. The District of Columbia, Oregon and North Dakota all had the greatest declines.

In terms of credit card debt, Alaska tops the list of the highest credit card debt states with an average of $7,094 per borrower. Colorado, Connecticut and North Carolina round out the top four states, all with debt amounts higher than the national average. On the other end of the scale, Iowans have the least amount of credit card debt, with $3,883 per borrower. North Dakota, South Dakota and West Virginia are also among the states with the lowest credit card debt. All of them are lower than the national average. New Jersey, New Mexico and Illinois saw the highest increases in credit card debt, while North Dakota, Idaho and Mississippi had the greatest declines in credit card debt.

The number of new credit cards is also on the rise, growing 3.14 percent in the second quarter of 2012, compared to the same time period in 2011. Almost 30 percent of this growth can be attributed to non-prime, higher-risk borrowers being able to obtain credit cards. "Non-prime borrowers continue to gain more access to credit. In conjunction with the growth in the overall number of card originations in the last few years, it means that the credit card pie is bigger, and non-prime consumers are getting a bigger slice of that pie," said Becker. "It is possible that the slight increase in delinquencies year over year can be attributed in part to the increased share among non-prime borrowers of new accounts, but even so these delinquency numbers are not a cause for concern. We've found that consumers continue to value their credit cards more than ever, and will likely do so at least until unemployment further abates."

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