Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Another bad omen: Credit scores fall as Americans struggle to pay bills

Much of these bills Americans are failing to pay are credit cards, and when credit card companies start tanking, it'll just be another layer added to the misery.

    As more consumers struggle with bills, their credit scores are paying a price.

    From the third quarter of 2008 to the first quarter of 2009 — the latest data available — the average TransUnion credit score dropped 6 points to 651, the credit bureau says. Scores fell more dramatically in states hardest hit by the housing bust: California saw a 10-point drop, for example, and Arizona, 11.

    "Consumers are feeling the bite of the current recession," says Ezra Becker, a director in TransUnion's financial services group. "With delinquencies showing up in credit files, it's not surprising that the average score is decreasing somewhat."

    Becker believes credit scores aren't likely to improve — and could even drop further — through the second quarter of 2010.

    More than 200 million U.S. consumers have credit scores, so a change of even a few points in the national average can be significant, experts say.

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