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Late credit card payments drop during first 3 months

LOS ANGELES - US credit card users are getting better about making their payments on time, even as banks are increasingly issuing cards to borrowers with less-than-stellar credit.

The rate of payments at least 90 days overdue dipped in the first three months of 2012 to 0.73 percent, credit reporting agency TransUnion said Wednesday.

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That was down from 0.78 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 and 0.74 percent in the first quarter of last year.

While the rate increased in the second half of last year, the broader trend has seen delinquency rates decline steadily since the last recession started toward the end of 2007, said Charlie Wise, TransUnion’s director of research and consulting.

“We are now seeing that, when given a choice, consumers are overwhelmingly paying their bank cards before they’re paying their mortgages,’’ Wise said.

Between 1999 and 2007, the average quarterly credit card delinquency rate was 1.30 percent, said TransUnion.

While late payments are down, cardholders have been racking up more debt.

On average, borrowers had $4,962 in credit card debt in the January-to-March period, down 4.7 percent from the previous quarter.

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