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Bankcard balances surpass $1 trillion as millennials increasingly turn to cards

Q4 2023 TransUnion Credit Industry Insights Report explores the latest credit trends

CHICAGO, IL (February 9, 2024) — Findings from the newly released Q4 2023 Quarterly Credit Industry Insights Report (CIIR) from TransUnion (NYSE: TRU) reveal that credit card debt is at a historical high, driven in part by Millennials further building on their credit portfolios. This comes at a time when an anticipated reduction in interest rates over the course of the coming year may open up new avenues to more affordable credit.

Bankcard balances reached a new record in Q4 2023, surpassing the $1 Trillion mark for the first time on the back of 13% growth year-over-year (YoY). Balances increased across all risk tiers, led by subprime which grew 32% YoY to $105 billion. Generationally, the Gen X share of bankcard balances continued to be the largest (33.8%) while the Millennial share (29.4%), for the second straight quarter, surpassed that of Baby Boomers (26.7%). Millennials were the overall share leader in originations in Q3 2023, accounting for 29.6% of all new bankcard originations.

“Inflationary pressures and higher-than-expected living costs have led to many consumers turning to bankcards to help make ends meet in recent quarters, and Millennials are no exception.” said Michele Raneri, vice president and head of U.S. research and consulting at TransUnion. “It’s worth watching how this generation uses credit in the coming year, one which will likely see some positive economic developments play out, but also challenges. Among these challenges will be the end of the one-year on-ramp to student loan payment resumption, something that may impact many consumers in this generational group.”

Millennials Share of Bankcard Balances Surpassed That of Baby Boomers for the First Time in 2023

Q4 2020 Q4 2021 Q4 2022 Q4 2023
Gen Z 2.5% 3.7% 5.2% 6.3%
Millennial 23.8% 26.0% 28.3% 29.4%
Gen X 33.9% 33.6% 33.6% 33.8%
Baby Boomers 33.6% 31.2% 28.4% 26.7%
Silent 6.2% 5.5% 4.5% 3.8%

 

At the same time, originations for both unsecured personal loans as well as home equity lending products were down YoY. This development is interesting as both products potentially offer consumers and homeowners lower-interest options to refinance high-cost credit card debt. Unsecured personal loans in Q3 2023 were down 10% YoY, which is the fourth consecutive quarter of decreasing origination volume, as lenders show more scrutiny in their lending decisions and lenders in the FinTech sector face continued capital constraints. While home equity lending remains stronger than prior to the pandemic, both HELOC and HELOAN originations were down significantly YoY in Q3 2023 – reflecting declines of 29% and 8%, respectively – as more homeowners have been holding off from tapping into available home equity while interest rates remain high.

“If the expected Fed interest rate cuts over the course of 2024 take place, lenders may find opportunity as consumers carrying elevated card balances seek to lower their monthly payments by refinancing high-cost debt into a lower interest product,” said Raneri. “Consumers should know their credit scores and work to improve them where possible. This will ensure they are as well-positioned as they can be to take advantage of those lower rates if the opportunity arises.”

Credit balances continue to rise as TransUnion’s Credit Industry Indicator (CII) fell to 107 in Q4 2023, its lowest since Q1 2021, just before the post-pandemic surge in credit usage. Multiple factors played a role in this drop, including slowing new credit demand and supply as well as rising delinquency rates. The CII is a quarterly measure of depersonalized and aggregated consumer credit health trends that summarizes movements in credit demand, credit supply, consumer credit behaviors and credit performance metrics over time into a single indicator. Examples of data elements categorized into these four pillars include: new product openings, consumer credit scores, outstanding balances, payment behaviors and more than 100 additional variables. Increases in the CII level indicate overall positive trends in the health of the credit market.

To learn more about the latest consumer credit trends, register for the Q4 2023 Quarterly Credit Industry Insights Report webinar. Read on for more specific insights about credit cards, personal loans, auto loans and mortgages.

Bankcard balances surpass $1 Trillion as average credit lines per consumer reach an all-time high

Q4 2023 CIIR Credit Card Summary

Bankcard originations were down 7% YoY in Q3 2023, representing the second consecutive quarter of annual decline. The largest percentage of originations occurred among the borrowers in the super prime risk tier followed closely by prime borrowers. Looking at borrower generations, Millennials led the way in share of originations, accounting for nearly 30%. Total bankcard balances surpassed the $1 Trillion mark for the first time in Q4 2023, representing growth of 13% YoY. Average balance per consumer was a significant part of the total balance growth and increased by 10% YoY to an all-time high of $6,360. At the same time, the number of active cardholders carrying a balance continued to steadily increase over the past 12 quarters. Total credit lines grew 8% YoY. In terms of performance, 90+ Days Past Due (DPD) consumer level delinquencies increased by 32bps YoY to 2.59% while 90+ DPD balance-level delinquencies increased by 65bps YoY to 2.17%, which marks the highest level in a decade.

Instant Analysis                                                                             

“A pullback in nonprime issuance was a primary driver in the YoY decline in Q3 2023 originations and breaks the historical seasonal pattern. While delinquencies in Q4 2023 were elevated, they were in line with the expected forecasts given historic non-prime originations and balance growth. We will be carefully watching to see if typical seasonal patterns will return based on liquidity events such a tax returns and annual wage growth.”

– Paul Siegfried, senior vice president and credit card business leader at TransUnion

 

Q4 2023 Credit Card Trends

 

Credit Card Lending Metric (Bankcard)

Q4 2023 Q4 2022 Q4 2021 Q4 2020
 

Number of Credit Cards

 

542.6 million

 

518.4 million

 

485.9 million

 

454.9 million

Borrower-Level Delinquency Rate (90+ DPD)  

2.59%

 

2.26%

 

1.48%

 

1.30%

Total Credit Card Balances $1.05 Trillion $931 billion $785 billion $740 billion
 

Average Debt Per Borrower

 

$6,360

$5,805 $5,127 $5,103
Number of Consumers Carrying a Balance 169.9 million 166.0 million 159.5 million 151.8 million
Prior Quarter Originations* 20.1 million 21.6 million 20.1 million 12.3 million
Average New Account Credit Lines*  

$5,673

 

$5,226

 

$4,468

 

$3,820

*Note: Originations are viewed one quarter in arrears to account for reporting lag.

For more credit card industry information, click here for episodes of Extra Credit: A Card and Banking Podcast by TransUnionClick here for a Q4 2023 credit card infographic.

 

Unsecured personal loan balances grow while originations decline; delinquencies drop but remain elevated

Total unsecured loan balances grew for the 11th consecutive quarter to a record of $245 billion in Q4 2023, representing a YoY increase of 10.5%. Balance growth was seen across all risk tiers, led by super prime at 35% growth YoY. Average account balance grew YoY by 6.2% to a record $8,704, led by increases in subprime (11.4%) and followed by super prime (7.6%). Originations fell by 10.3% YoY from record levels in 2022, and that was reflected in new account balances, which were down 14.6% YoY in Q3 2023 to $33 billion. All risk tiers except for super prime saw YoY declines in new account balances. Borrower-level 60+ DPD delinquency was 3.9% in Q3 2023, down from 4.1% a year prior, reflecting an originations mix shift to lower-risk borrowers due to lender tightening over the past several quarters. On a vintage basis, performance for the Q4 2022 new account vintage (through November 2023) improved vs. the Q4 2021 cohort over a similar time period but still had an elevated 60+ DPD delinquency rate at the account level compared to earlier vintages.

Instant Analysis

“With interest rates eventually lowering over the course of 2024, there could be a gradual thaw in the unsecured personal loans market. However, lenders and investors will be watching delinquency rates closely, and will hope to see continued improvements in overall and vintage performance. In the meantime, lenders will continue to compete for lower risk consumers.”

–     Liz Pagel, senior vice president of consumer lending at TransUnion

 

Q4 2023 Unsecured Personal Loan Trends

 

Personal Loan Metric

Q4 2023 Q4 2022 Q4 2021 Q4 2020
 

Total Balances

$245 billion $222 billion $167 billion $145 billion
Number of Unsecured Personal Loans  

28.1 million

 

27.0 million

 

22.8 million

 

21.2 million

Number of Consumers with Unsecured Personal Loans  

23.5 million

 

22.5 million

 

19.9 million

 

19.3 million

Borrower-Level Delinquency Rate (60+ DPD)  

3.90%

 

4.14%

 

3.00%

 

2.70%

 

Average Debt Per Borrower

$11,773 $11,116 $9,622 $8,795
 

Prior Quarter Originations*

5.0 million 5.6 million 5.1 million 3.5 million

*Note: Originations are viewed one quarter in arrears to account for reporting lag.


About TransUnion

TransUnion is a global information and insights company with over 12,000 associates operating in more than 30 countries. We make trust possible by ensuring each person is reliably represented in the marketplace. We do this with a Tru™ picture of each person: an actionable view of consumers, stewarded with care. Through our acquisitions and technology investments we have developed innovative solutions that extend beyond our strong foundation in core credit into areas such as marketing, fraud, risk and advanced analytics. As a result, consumers and businesses can transact with confidence and achieve great things. We call this Information for Good®—and it leads to economic opportunity, great experiences and personal empowerment for millions of people around the world. http://www.transunion.com/business

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