Visa credit cards are displayed in Washington
Visa Threat Intelligence is an attempt to reduce fraud since hackers and foreign governments increasingly have targeted customer payment information. Visa credit cards are displayed in Washington Oct. 27, 2009. Reuters

Credit card delinquencies are falling in the U.S. as millions of consumers have simply stopped using their credit cards.

TransUnion, the credit and information management firm, reported that the national credit card delinquency rate (that is, the ratio of bankcard borrowers who are 90 days or more delinquent on one or more of their credit cards) slipped to 0.83 percent in the third quarter of 2010, down almost 9.8 percent over the previous quarter.

On a year-over-year basis, credit card delinquencies have decreased by 24.6 percent.

TransUnion estimates that more than 8-million consumers have stopped actively using bank-issued, general purpose credit cards over the past year.

“This deleveraging is believed to be due in part to charge-offs in the higher risk segments of the population, more conservative spending in the low-risk segments, and significant efforts by consumers across the board to maintain the health of their credit card relationships as a financial cushion,” the company stated.

TransUnion added that consumers with higher incomes were just as likely as consumers with lower incomes to suspend their use of this payment option.

The vast majority of the consumers who do not possess or have stopped using credit cards continue to have and use other forms of revolving and installment credit, and of course still need to pay for necessities, said Ezra Becker, vice president of research and consulting in TransUnion's financial services business unit.

In 2009, well over 70 million consumers did not have an active, general-purpose bank issued credit card. During the course of one year, more than 8 million additional consumers joined these ranks, making it one of the fastest growing consumer segments. Consumers who do not have or use bank-issued, general purpose credit cards still have a need for other payment vehicles, a fact which is beginning to attract significant attention from credit and debit providers alike.

TransUnion’s analysis also revealed that the states with the highest incidences of credit card delinquency was in Nevada (1.28 percent), followed by Florida (1.09 percent) and Mississippi (1.06 percent).

The lowest credit card delinquency rates were found in North Dakota (0.48 percent), South Dakota (0.53 percent) and Nebraska (0.56 percent).

Only two areas showed an increase in credit card delinquency -- the District of Columbia (a 19.67 percent increase) and Mississippi (1.92 percent increase).

The two regions of the country with the largest quarter-over-quarter drop in delinquency were Alaska (19.2 percent decline) and Nebraska (17.6 percent).

Overall, national average credit card borrower debt edged upward for the first time in six quarters by 0.28 percent to $4,964 from the previous quarter's $4,951, but down 11.54 percent compared to the third quarter of 2009 ($5,612).

The highest state average credit card debt remained in Alaska at $7,159, followed by Hawaii at $5,716 and North Carolina at $5,640.

The lowest average credit card debt was found in Iowa ($3,807), followed by North Dakota ($4,103) and South Dakota ($4,196).

The third quarter marks the first time since the recession officially ended in the summer of 2009 that average consumer credit card balances have not declined, although aggregate balances have dropped,” Becker added.

“The reason for this apparent contradiction is that the net number of active credit card accounts is continuing to drop, and it is falling faster than the dollar deleveraging rate.