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More Consumers Paying Their Loans on Time

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Just 1.51% of all consumer installment loans — like personal loans and auto loans — were 30 or more days past due in the third quarter of 2014, a record-low delinquency rate, according to a report from the American Bankers Association. The 15-year average delinquency rate is 2.3%, and delinquencies hovered above 3% at the height of the recession.

The American Bankers Association (ABA) tracks eight installment loan categories for these figures, which it released Jan. 8: personal loans, direct auto loans, indirect auto loans, mobile home loans, recreational vehicle (RV) loans, marine loans and property improvement loans. Delinquency rates fell among all those categories except direct auto loans (steady at 0.72%) and mobile homes, up from 3.56% to 3.64% from the second quarter to the third. The report doesn’t include student loan delinquencies or mortgage delinquencies, because the report focuses on loans with shorter repayment periods. Student loans and mortgages are special beasts, as far as consumer borrowing goes.

ABA also tracks three revolving credit categories, including credit cards, home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) and non-card revolving loans. The credit card delinquency rate went up from 2.43% in the second quarter to 2.51% in the third quarter, and the HELOC delinquency rate increased slightly from 1.5% to 1.52%. According to the ABA, the credit card delinquency rate has stayed within 14 basis points since the fourth quarter of 2012.

“Bank card delinquencies have hovered near 15-year lows with only minor fluctuations over the past two years, and we expect that trend to continue,” said ABA Chief Economist James Chessen, as quoted in a news release from the association. “While people are clearly ready to spend again as economic activity picks up, the overwhelming majority of consumers continue to keep debt at manageable levels.”

While lower delinquency rates is certainly good news, it’s crucial to pay attention to those consumers still struggling to make loan and credit card payments, because delinquency is the gateway to larger financial issues like default, debt collection and bankruptcy. Consumers struggling to repay their creditors should first evaluate their individual financial situations to see if budget changes could make payments affordable, then consult their creditors to see if any modifications to loan payments can be made. If not, it’s worth exploring debt consolidation or the help of a credit counseling agency.

Loan delinquency can wreck your credit, in turn making it more difficult to qualify for loan consolidation and other forms of credit you may need later. You can see how much of an impact it could have by getting a free credit report summary on Credit.com each month, and if it identifies payment history as an area of concern, make sure you act quickly to prevent the problem from worsening and threatening your financial future.

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