<p>WASHINGTON-Consumers delinquent on their credit card bills increased slightly in the fourth quarter last year while other loan delinquency rates dropped, according to the latest American Bankers Association (ABA) study of consumer credit. The ABA’s Consumer Credit Delinquency Bulletin found that credit card delinquencies crept upward from 3.77% to 3.88% between the third and fourth quarters of 2001. However, delinquency rates on eight types of closed-end installment loans-including auto, home equity and personal loans-dropped from 2.4% to 2.34% in the same time period. Auto loans lead the decrease in closed-end delinquencies, largely due to the increase in the number of auto loans spurred by the popular 0.0% financing deals at the end of last year. Direct auto loan delinquencies decreased to 2.27% in the fourth quarter of 2001 from 2.56% in the third quarter. Indirect auto loan delinquencies decreased from 2.45% in the third quarter to 2.35%. The bulletin also showed mixed numbers in home equity loans and lines of credit. The ABA advised consumers to review their finances every year and provided the following tips: Warning signs of being overextended on credit; Paying only the minimum payment month after month; Being out of cash constantly; Being late on important payments, such as rent or mortgage; Taking longer and longer to pay off balances; and Borrowing from one lender to pay another. Solving debt problems: Talk with creditors – hiding only makes the problem worse; Don’t charge more purchases until your problems are solved; Avoid bankruptcy – it’s a short-term solution with long-term consequences; and Contact Consumer Credit Counseling Services at (800) 388-2227.</p>

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