Loan delinquencies on the decline

The number of consumers who were behind on their outstanding loan balances fell in the third quarter of 2011, the first time it had done so in that calendar year.

The American Bankers Association reported that consumer loan delinquencies dropped to a total of 2.59 percent of all lines of credit across eight categories between July and September, down from 2.88 percent at the end of the second quarter, according to a report from Bloomberg News. The group says that most of the improvement is the result of the nation's slowly improving economy.

"Subtle improvements in the economy such as lower gas prices and a better job market have reduced some of the stresses facing consumers," said James Chessen, the ABA's chief economist, according to the news agency.

In particular, credit card delinquencies ticked down to 3.22 percent of all accounts during the quarter, down from 3.25 percent in the previous period, the report said.

Keeping current on loans is a great way for consumers to keep their credit scores healthy, but another important aspect for consumers' maintaining good finances is regularly checking their credit reports.