ABA Report: Consumer Delinquencies Fell in First Quarter

WASHINGTON — Consumer credit delinquencies fell in the first quarter of 2021 as the economy rebounded strongly, according to results from the American Bankers Association’s latest Consumer Credit Delinquency Bulletin. Overall, delinquencies fell in seven of the 11 loan categories tracked by ABA.

The composite ratio, which tracks delinquencies in eight closed-end installment loan categories, fell 48 basis points in the first quarter to 1.91% of all accounts. The ABA report defines a delinquency as a late payment that is 30 days or more overdue.

“As expected, the federal stimulus payments last December and early this year made it easier for consumers to pay down their debt,” said ABA Chief Economist and Head of Research Sayee Srinivasan. “We also saw the job market improve significantly as the successful vaccination effort this spring helped lift restrictions and fuel an unprecedented economic rebound. The resulting recovery, along with strong household saving last year, means that consumers will likely remain resilient going forward.”

Delinquencies in bank cards (credit cards issued by banks) rose 40 basis points to 2.05% of all accounts in the first quarter, but remained near historically low levels. This rate ranks as the fourth-lowest level for this category since ABA began tracking this data in 1993.

“As credit card use has increased throughout the pandemic, continually low card delinquencies are a testament to careful management by consumers and strong underwriting by lenders,” Srinivasan said. (See Economic Charts)

Delinquencies fell in two home-related categories and ticked up in one category in the first quarter. Home equity loan delinquencies fell 137 basis points to 4.45% all accounts. Property improvement loan delinquencies fell 12 basis points to 1.08% in the first quarter. Home equity line of credit delinquencies rose 7 basis points to 1.70% of all accounts.

“The exponential rise in home values has boosted home equity and further incentivized consumers to meet their obligations,” Srinivasan said. “As home equity continues to rise, we expect home-related delinquencies to hold near current levels.”

Delinquencies in direct auto loans (those arranged directly through a bank) fell 20 basis points to 1.85% of all accounts in the first quarter. Delinquencies in indirect auto loans (those arranged through a third party such as an auto dealer) fell 39 basis points to 2.10% of all accounts in the first quarter, falling further below the category’s pre-COVID level of 2.56% in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Credit quality is expected to remain healthy as the economic recovery continues in 2021. According to ABA’s latest Credit Conditions Index, released last month, chief economists from North America’s largest banks anticipate a sustained rebound in both consumer and business credit market conditions over the next six months.

“With most businesses now reopened, the labor market strengthening and incomes rising, bank economists are bullish on the sustainability of the economic recovery,” Srinivasan said. “The signs are pointing in the right direction for a very solid rebound through the rest of the year, which will help keep delinquency rates low for the foreseeable future.”

The first quarter composite ratio is made up of the following eight closed-end loans. All figures are seasonally adjusted based upon the number of accounts.