Delinquencies on bank card payments fell to an 18-year low for the third quarter ended Sept. 30, and a combined ratio covering late payments in eight loan categories also dropped, the American Bankers Association reported Thursday. Still, delinquencies rose in five of those eight categories.

The composite ratio's delinquency rate fell to 2.16 percent of all accounts in the third quarter from 2.24 percent in the second quarter. Bank card delinquencies, which are not part of the composite, fell to 2.75 percent during the quarter, the lowest mark since 1994, the ABA reported.

Consumers kept paying down debt in the third quarter, but slow job growth and the expiration of a tax cut could make it harder for many to repay loans, according to the ABA.

The ABA tracks late payments for bank-provided credit cards, auto loans and other consumer loans but does not track delinquency rates for traditional mortgage payments. The ABA defines a delinquency as a late payment that is 30 days or more overdue.

ABA Chief Economist James Chessen in a statement said low consumer confidence in the economy could mean more delinquencies are coming. A recent measure of U.S. consumer attitudes showed confidence at a four-month low.

Consumers also could see lower income because Congress did not extend a temporary reduction in the Social Security payroll tax, which could hurt consumers' ability to repay loans in the future, Chessen said.

"The conservative approach consumers have taken to credit over the last several years has allowed them to better manage their debt and better position themselves for the future," he added.

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