Consumers paying down credit cards before mortgages?

When consumers run into money trouble and can only afford to pay some of their bills, many are still choosing to make sure their credit card bills are taken care of, and let their mortgages slip into delinquency.

The TransUnion Credit Risk Index ticked up at the end of 2011 for the first time since it peaked in 2009, and experts say that has a lot to do with homeowners falling behind on their mortgage payments, according to a report from Your Money Matters. At the same time, some of the nation's credit card lenders are once again extending offers to subprime borrowers, meaning that many consumers may be facing a choice between paying the bills for either their mortgages or new credit cards, and are choosing the cards.

This trend may be troubling because borrowers who are higher credit risks may be more likely to allow their mortgages to slip into foreclosure after months of non-payment, particularly if they're more worried about their credit cards, the report said.

Any delinquency will have a negative impact on consumer credit scores, as can unfair or erroneous markings on their credit reports. Therefore, it's helpful to check these documents frequently to ensure their accuracy.