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Bankcard Balances Surge Past $1 Trillion as All Risk Tiers Drive Up Their Credit Card Balances

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

According to TransUnion’s newly released Q4 2023 Quarterly Credit Industry Insights Report (CIIR), consumers continued to use their credit cards, driving credit card debt to a historical high in the final quarter of the year.

Bankcard balances surpassed the $1 trillion mark for the first time on record on the back of 13% growth year over year (YoY) — with balances increasing across all risk tiers. Generationally, the Gen X share of bankcard balances continued to be the largest (33.8%), while the Millennial share (29.4%) surpassed that of Baby Boomers (26.7%) for the second straight quarter.

Millennials share of bankcard balances surpassed that of Baby Boomers in 2023

Q4 2020
Q4 2021
Q4 2022
Q4 2023
Gen Z
Gen X
Baby Boomers

At the same time, originations for both unsecured personal loans and home equity lending products were down YoY, an interesting development as both products offer consumers lower interest options to refinance high-cost credit card debt.

“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 Michele Raneri, Vice President and Head of US research and consulting at TransUnion. “Consumers should know their credit scores and work to improve them where possible. This will help ensure they’re well-positioned to take advantage of those lower rates if the opportunity arises.”

TransUnion’s Credit Industry Indicator (CII) — a quarterly measure of depersonalized and aggregated consumer credit health trends — fell to 107 in Q4 2023, its lowest level since Q1 2021, just before the post-pandemic surge in credit usage. Multiple factors played a role, including slowing new credit demand and supply, and rising delinquency rates.

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.

Consumer credit trends in the credit card sector: Q4 2023

Bankcard balances were up and the average credit line per consumer reached an all-time high in Q4 0f 2023, even as bankcard originations were down 7% YoY in Q3 2023, representing the second consecutive quarter of annual decline. Other insights from the report include:

  • The largest percentage of originations occurred among the borrowers in the super prime risk tier followed closely by prime borrowers
  • 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
  • The average balance per consumer was a significant part of total balance growth and increased 10% YoY to an all-time high of $6,360
  • The number of active cardholders carrying a balance continued to steadily increase over the past 12 quarters
  • Total credit lines grew 8% YoY
  • 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%, marking the highest level in a decade

Our view: A pullback in issuing nonprime consumers credit cards was a primary driver in the YoY decline in Q3 2023 originations and broke the historical seasonal pattern. While delinquencies in Q4 2023 were elevated, they remained in line with expected forecasts given historic, non-prime originations and balance growth. We will carefully watch to see if typical seasonal patterns return based on liquidity events, such as tax returns and annual wage growth.

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
485.9 million
454.9 million
 Borrower-level delinquency rate
(90+ DPD)
Total credit card balances 
$1.05 trillion
$931 billion
$785 billion
$740 billion
Average debt per borrower
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*

*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 TransUnion. Click here for a Q4 2023 credit card infographic.

Consumer credit trends in the personal loan sector: Q4 2023

While unsecured personal loan originations continued to decline (for the 11th consecutive quarter), total unsecured loan balances grew to a record $245 billion in Q4 2023, representing a YoY increase of 10.5%. Other insights from the report include:

  • 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 10.3% YoY from record levels in 2022 — as reflected by 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 as lenders tightened underwriting criteria over the past several quarters
  • On a vintage basis, performance for 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

Our view: 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, looking for continued improvements in overall and vintage performance. In the meantime, lenders will continue to compete for lower risk consumers.

Q4 2023 unsecured personal loan trends

Personal loan metric
Q4 2023
Q4 2022
Q4 2021
Q4 2020
Total balances
$245 billion
$145 billion
Number of unsecured personal loans

22.8 million
Number of consumers with unsecured personal loans

 Borrower-level delinquency rate
(60+ DPD)
Average debt per borrower
Prior quarter originations*

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

Click here for a Q4 2023 unsecured personal loan infographic. 

Consumer credit trends in the mortgage sector: Q4 2023

The market remained sluggish, and origination volumes continued to see YoY declines, down 22% to 1.2 million in Q3 2023. That said, this represented the smallest YoY decline in the past seven quarters, indicating the mortgage origination market may be near its bottom. Other insights from the report include:

  • Purchase originations were down 18% YoY for the quarter, while rate and term refinance was down 27%
  • Cash-out refi was down 44% YoY in Q4 2023
  • The share of mortgage originations in Q4 among Gen Z rose from 9.6% in Q3 2022 to 13.2% in Q3 2023 as more of these consumers age into traditional homebuying years — while all other groups fell in share over the same period
  • In the home equity market, the post-pandemic surge in originations slowed but remained above recent historic norms at 582K, representing the second highest Q3 since 2008
  • The total was split fairly evenly between HELOCs and HELOANs for the quarter, and both were driven by originations from Gen X and Baby Boomer homeowners
  • 60+ DPD consumer-level delinquencies continued to inch higher to 1.03% in Q4 2023

Our view: Persistently high mortgage rates remained a significant headwind in the mortgage market, particularly affecting demand for refinance. Purchase originations will continue to drive the mortgage market over the next several quarters as demand for refinance will depend on mortgage rates falling significantly below current high levels.

Q4 2023 mortgage trends 

Mortgage lending metric
Q4 2023
Q4 2022
Q4 2021
Q4 2020
Number of mortgage loans
52.9 million
52.6 million
51.3 million
50.8 million
Consumer-level delinquency rate
(60+ DPD)
Prior quarter originations*
1.2 million
1.5 million
3.4 million
3.9 million
Average loan amounts of new mortgage loans*
Average balance per consumer
Total balances of all mortgage loans
$12.0 trillion
$11.7 trillion
$10.7 trillion
$9.9 trillion

* Originations are viewed one quarter in arrears to account for reporting lag.
Click here for a Q4 2023 mortgage industry infographic.

Consumer credit trends in the auto sector: Q4 2023

In Q3 2023, we saw a 4% YoY decline (to 6.3 million) in auto originations, still down significantly compared to prepandemic levels in 2019. Other insights from the report include:

  • Among risk tiers, originations were up 13% YoY among super prime but down among all other risk tiers YoY
  • The new vs. used share continued to slowly trend back down toward pre-pandemic levels, with used cars representing 58% of vehicles financed in Q4 2023
  • The leasing market continued its slow recovery, driven in part by more normalized inventories; however, it’s still well below pre-pandemic levels
  • 22% of newly registered vehicles were leased in Q4 2023, up from 17% one year prior
  • Average amount financed saw YoY declines for both new and used vehicles, with new down 3.0% YoY to $40,665 and used down 3.3% to $26,557
  • Monthly payment amounts rose 1.8% for new vehicles and 1.1% for used vehicles
  • Point-in-time 60+ DPD consumer-level delinquency increased to 1.61% in Q4 2023, up from 1.43% one year prior
  • New vintages continued to show consistent delinquency performance compared to the pre-pandemic periods of 2018–2019

Our view: New vehicle inventory continued to see recovery from pandemic-era lows, although some brands still face lingering shortages. These inventory recoveries will likely be followed by ongoing increases in consumer incentives — which should help mitigate affordability challenges in the new vehicle segment. While originations remained down YoY, growth by super prime borrowers may be an early indicator of pent-up demand for vehicles, and additional inventory and incentives may drive origination growth among additional risk tiers moving forward.

Q4 2023 auto loan trends 

Auto lending metric
Q4 2023
Q4 2022
Q4 2021
Q4 2020
Total auto loan accounts
80.4 million
80.2 million
 81.4 million
 82.5 million 
Prior quarter originations1
6.3 million 
 6.5 million 
7.2 million 
 7.2 million 
Average monthly payment NEW2
Average monthly payment USED2
Average balance per consumer
Average amount financed on new auto loans2
Average amount financed on used auto loans2
Consumer-level delinquency Rate (60+ DPD)

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

2Data from S&P Global MobilityAutoCreditInsight, Q4 2023 data only for months of October & November.
Click here for a Q4 2023 auto infographic.

For more information about the report, please register for the Q4 2023 Credit Industry Insight Report webinar.

About TransUnion (NYSE:TRU) 

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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