Escalating job losses and personal bankruptcies are exacting a deepening toll on the credit card busi­nesses of major banks.

Already grappling with higher losses, the banks are moving swiftly to cut their risks by stepping up collections and cutting the credit limits of high-risk clients, an industry conference in Montreal was told.

But even as banks signal the era of easy credit is over, a new report suggests the financial hangover from that heyday could persist for some time to come.

Equifax Canada released data suggesting that hard-hit Canadians are failing to pay their bills on time at “an increasing rate” and that credit card debt was largely to blame.

The credit bureau said the average national consumer delinquency rate increased by 7.3 per cent over the period from February 2008 to February 2009. Equifax defines delinquent bills as those that are at least 90 days overdue.

Delinquency by cities
• Cities that experienced the greatest increases in consumer delinquency include Montreal, Calgary, Quebec City and Hamilton.

• Below-average increases were recorded in Toronto, Ottawa, Halifax and Vancouver.

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