The credit bureau TransUnion LLC said average bank card debt and delinquency rates rose in the first quarter as consumers struggled to pay their bills.

Average bank card borrower debt rose 4.1%, to $5,776, in the quarter from a year earlier. Ezra Becker, director of consulting and strategy in TransUnion's financial services group, said this could reflect a move by consumers to divert more income to basic necessities.

"This increase could be an indication that tax refund checks, typically used to pay down balances during the first quarter in years past, are now being used to cover daily living expenses," he said.

The delinquency rate rose 9.1%, to 1.32%. The rate was highest in regions where the housing market has been hit hardest, with Las Vegas topping the list at 2.6%.

TransUnion expects the national rate to keep rising through the year to 1.7% by the start of 2010.

TransUnion sampled data from 27 million anonymous consumer records.

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