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Consumers Are Turning to Credit to Manage Higher Costs — a Reliance That Could Grow as Student Loan Payments Restart

Consumers Are Turning to Credit to Manage Higher Costs — a Reliance That Could Grow as Student Loan Payments Restart

High interest rates and costs have driven many Americans to tap their credit, driving record balances even as originations across credit cards, mortgages, auto and personal loans lag from a year ago, according to TransUnion’s Q3 2023 Quarterly Credit Industry Insights Report (CIIR).

“Inflation has abated to a large extent in recent months, but its recent spikes have left prices sharply elevated across a wide range of products and services that consumers have come to rely on,” said Charlie Wise, Senior Vice President of Global Research and Consulting at TransUnion. “As a result, consumers have found themselves increasingly turning to their existing available credit lines. It’ll be worth watching to see how those balances are further impacted as many begin feeling the pinch of the resumption of student loan payments.” 

Balances are up while originations are down across credit products YoY

Key metrics

Q3 2023

Q3 2022

YoY% change

Total credit card balances (bankcard)

$995 billion

$866 billion


Total mortgage balances

$11.8 trillion

$11.5 trillion


Total auto balances

$1.6 trillion

$1.5 trillion


Total unsecured personal loan balances

$241 billion

$210 billion


Total credit card originations* (bankcard)

20.5 million

21.3 million


Total mortgage originations*

1.2 million

1.9 million


Total auto originations*

6.4 million

7.0 million


Total unsecured personal loan originations*

5.1 million

6.0 million


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

To learn more about the latest consumer credit trends, register for the Q3 2023 Quarterly Credit Industry Insights Report webinar. Read on for more specific insights about credit cards, personal loans, auto loans and mortgages.

Consumer credit trends in the credit card sector: Q3 2023

Bankcard balances reached a record high of $995 billion in Q3 2023, growing 15% YoY. Other insights from the report include:

  • In 2023, bankcard originations saw their second highest Q2 ever with 20.5 million new accounts, a 3.8% YoY decline which was driven by lower originations in prime and below segments
  • The average bankcard balance per consumer increased 11% YoY to $6,088, the highest in the past 10 years
  • Total bankcard credit lines increased 9% YoY to $4.6T, while average credit line per consumer reached and surpassed the $25K mark
  • Average bankcard utilization per consumer in Q2 2023 stood at 24.1%, close to the Q3 2023 pre-pandemic level of 24.6%
  • 90+ DPD balance-level delinquency saw an increase of 65bps YoY to 1.91%, 30bps higher than the pre-pandemic Q3 2019
  • Bankcard balances continued to grow with Millennials’ share of total balances surpassing Baby Boomers and now standing in second place behind Gen X among generational groups

Our view: Q2 2023 was another historically strong quarter for bankcard originations, even as lenders shifted away from below prime originations for the third consecutive quarter. In contrast, the bankcard origination share for prime plus and super prime were both up from one year ago, indicating lenders are focused on acquiring quality balances. While reflecting some familiar seasonal patterns, balance-level bankcard 90+ DPD delinquency stood at its highest level in a decade, a trend definitely worth monitoring.

Q3 2023 credit card trends 

Credit card lending metric (bankcard)

Q3 2023

Q3 2022

Q3 2021

Q3 2020

Number of credit cards 

537.9 million

510.8 million

474.2 million

451.9 million

 Borrower-level delinquency rate (90+ DPD)





Total credit card balances 

$995 billion

$866 billion

$727 billion

$723 billion

Average debt per borrower





Number of consumers carrying a balance

168.6 million

163.9 million

156.1 million

149.4 million

Prior quarter originations*

20.5 million

21.3 million

19.3 million

8.6 million

Average new account credit lines*





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

For more credit card industry information, view episodes of Extra Credit: A Card and Banking Podcast by TransUnion. View a Q3 2023 credit card infographic.

Consumer credit trends in the personal loan sector: Q3 2023

Total unsecured loan balances set a record for the eighth consecutive quarter, growing 15% YoY to $241 billion in Q3 2023. Super prime experienced the most significant YoY balance (38.6%), followed by subprime (15%) and prime plus (14%). Other insights from the report include:

  • Total new account balances in Q2 2022 were at $35 billion, down 13% YoY— with only super prime growing YoY to 22%
  • The average balance per consumer grew 8.8% YoY to $11,692 (another record high), and the number of consumers with a balance grew to 23 million in Q3 2023, up 5.4% YoY
  • Q2 2023 marked the third consecutive quarter of YoY decline in originations (15%); however, they remained 6.4% higher than pre-pandemic Q2 2019
  • All risk tiers saw YoY declines except for super prime which grew nearly 20% YoY
  • Borrower-level 60+ DPD delinquency was 3.8% in Q3 2023 (down from 3.9% a year ago), led by subprime (down 1.3% YoY), while other risk tiers saw small YoY increases
  • Delinquencies for below prime vintages for Q3 2022 stabilized, while prime and above vintages were elevated over the prior year 

Our view: Although originations continue to fall YoY, total unsecured loan balances and consumer-level balances still reached records, driven primarily by super prime consumers as lenders continue to focus on less risky borrowers. The decline in 60+ DPD delinquencies is worth watching in the months to come as student loan payments restart for millions of borrowers. Lenders should continue to find opportunities given high employment rates and a continued desire by consumers to refinance high interest debt.

Q3 2023 unsecured personal loan trends

Personal loan metric

Q3 2023

Q3 2022

Q3 2021

Q3 2020

Total balances

$241 billion

$210 billion

$156 billion

$148 billion

Number of unsecured personal loans

27.8 million

26.4 million

21.6 million

21.4 million

Number of consumers with unsecured personal loans

23.2 million

22.0 million

19.2 million

19.5 million

 Borrower-level delinquency rate (60+ DPD)





Average debt per borrower





Prior quarter originations*

5.1 million

6.0 million

4.4 million

2.6 million

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

View additional unsecured personal loan industry metrics. View a Q3 2023 unsecured personal loan infographic

Consumer credit trends in the mortgage sector: Q3 2023

  • In Q3 2023, both mortgage balances and delinquencies inched upward. Other insights from the report include:
  • After falling slightly last quarter to $11.7T, total mortgage balances increased to $11.8T in Q3 2023, an increase of 3% YoY
  • Mortgage originations were down 37% YoY, falling to 1.2 million, comparative to Q2 2014 volumes
  • Purchases made up 87% of the volume in Q2 2023 at 1 million originations, down 28% YoY from 1.2 million in Q2 2022
  • Refinance was down 64% YoY from 425K to 151K, with rate and term and cash-out refinance originations falling 63% and 65% YoY, respectively
  • Tappable homeowner equity continued to inch upward, up 1% YoY to $19.7T
  • HELOC originations were down 28% from last-year’s high volumes, and home equity loan originations were also down slightly by 3% YoY
  • With originations in Q2 2023 at 295K and 290K for HELOCs and home equity loans, respectively, volumes were well above levels seen between 2008 and 2021 for both
  • While still below Q3 2019 pre-pandemic levels, delinquencies (60+ DPD) were up 15% YoY to 1.02%, marking the sixth consecutive quarter of deterioration
  • Vintage performance showed deterioration with new mortgage vintages performing worse than vintages of the past four years

Our view: Delinquencies have seen six consecutive quarters of YoY increases, moving closer to pre-pandemic levels. Delinquencies increased across early, mid and late stages and spanned all loan types. In the midst of increasing non-mortgage debt and rising delinquencies across the board, record levels of equity available to homeowners will remain a viable solution to ease debt pressures.

Q3 2023 mortgage trends 

Mortgage lending metric

Q3 2023

Q3 2022

Q3 2021

Q3 2020

Number of mortgage loans

52.4 million

52.2 million

51.2 million

50.7 million

Account-level delinquency rate (60+ DPD)





Prior quarter originations*

1.2 million

1.9 million

3.5 million

3.3 million

Average loan amounts of new mortgage loans*





Average balance per consumer





Total balances of all mortgage loans

$11.8 trillion

$11.5 trillion

$10.5 trillion

$9.7 trillion

Number of HELOC originations*





Number of home equity loan originations*





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

View additional mortgage industry metrics. View a Q3 2023 mortgage industry infographic.

Consumer credit trends in the auto sector: Q3 2023

New vs. used originations continue to revert to pre-pandemic norms with new cars making up 43% of all cars financed in Q3 2023, up from 39% of all cars one year prior. Other insights from the report include:

  • Originations in Q2 2023 were down 8.7% YoY to 6.4 million, while at the same time experiencing a slight seasonal uptick of 4.4% over the previous quarter.
  • For the second consecutive quarter, originations were down across most risk tiers YoY, with only super prime showing a YoY gain of 5.9%. Subprime and near prime originations continued to be the most suppressed, down 15% YoY.
  • Average amounts financed for new vehicles declined 2.6% YoY, while used experienced a YoY decline of 4.8%.
  • Monthly payments were up for both used vehicles (1.3%) and new vehicles (4.2%) YoY; however, QoQ monthly payments held relatively flat among used car purchases and saw a modest decline among new car purchases.
  • Leasing market share stood at 20% of new vehicle registrations, up from its 2022 low of 17% but still below its pre-pandemic level of approximately 30%.

Our view: The new vehicle market has improved, but recent events like the United Auto Workers strike could impact continued growth due to consumer perception and inventory of certain vehicle models. High interest rates continued to drive up monthly payments for both used and new vehicles, so as interest rates and cross-wallet inflation remain relatively high, affordability will continue to be a challenge, particularly among below prime consumers. Portfolio delinquency and macroeconomic indicators are likely to determine if and when underwriters expand their buy boxes.

Q3 2023 auto loan trends 

Auto lending metric

Q3 2023

Q3 2022

Q3 2021

Q3 2020

Total auto loan accounts

81.4 million

81.2 million

 83.0 million

 83.7 million 

Prior quarter originations*

6.4 million 

 7.0 million 

8.2 million 

 6.5 million 

Average monthly payment NEW**





Average monthly payment USED**





Average balance per consumer





Average amount financed on new auto loans*





Average amount financed on used auto loans*





Consumer-level delinquency rate (60+ DPD)***





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

**Data from S&P Global MobilityAutoCreditInsight, Q3 2023 data only for months of July & August.

***TransUnion discovered irregularities from a data contributor and that data has been removed from our market reporting until resolution

View additional auto industry metrics. View a Q3 2023 auto infographic.

For more information about the report, please register for the Q3 2023 Credit Industry Insight Report webinar.

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.

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