The sharp fall in gas prices early this year helped U.S. consumers to stay current on their credit obligations during the first quarter.
The percentage of bank-issued credit card loans that were 30 days or more past due dipped to 2.47% between January and March, according to new data from the American Bankers Association. The seasonally adjusted 30-day delinquency rate on credit card loans was 2.52% during the fourth quarter of 2015.
The trade group's data also showed declines in delinquency rates for home equity lines of credit, personal loans and auto loans arranged through dealers, as well as for an index of eight types of closed-end loans.
The improved credit performance coincided with a seven-year low in gasoline prices. The average price at the pump dipped to $1.87 in February, its lowest level since January 2009, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
ABA Chief Economist James Chessen said that the fall in gas prices "was a significant help in terms of boosting disposable income in the first quarter."
Chessen said that as a rule of thumb, every one-cent drop in gas prices fees up roughly $1 billion in disposable income among U.S. consumers.
Still, consumers in different parts of the country have been affected unevenly by low oil prices.
In energy-producing regions, 4.6% of auto loans were 90 days or more past due during the first quarter, compared with 3.4% for the entire nation, according to a recent report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. That research suggests that job losses in the energy sector had cascading economic effects in parts of Texas, Oklahoma and several other states.
Any positive impact from low gas prices on consumer credit performance will likely be weaker during the second quarter.
Average nationwide gas prices were about 35 cents higher between April and June than they were between January and March. But they remained well below their average level over the last decade.