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Record credit card and personal loan balances: TransUnion

Consumers have felt inflated prices and demonstrated recession-like spending habits in the final half of 2022.

According to TransUnion Insights, Q3 2022 saw many consumers turning to unsecured personal loans and credit cards to carve out a little more breathing room.

After the “great reset” pandemic, consumer loan balances and delinquencies rose above levels of the pre-pandemic period, erasing two years of lighter debt.

The Q3 2022 Quarterly Credit Industry Insights Report (CIIR) released Monday shows delinquencies for most credit products continue to rise from the shallow levels seen in 2021, particularly among subprime segments of customers. Michele Raneri, VP of US research and consulting at TransUnion, said consumers are between a rock and a hard place.

“Consumers are being pressured on multiple fronts, first by this environment of high inflation, and secondarily by the higher interest rates that the Federal Reserve is implementing to tamp it down,” Raneri said. “However, as long as employment numbers remain strong, there should continue to be a steady flow of customers seeking access to new credit products, credit cards and personal loans in particular, and concurrently, an ample supply of lenders willing to offer credit to them.”

Rock and a hard place

Data show credit card balances continue to grow. Bank card balances reached a record high of $866 billion in Q3 2022, a 19% year-over-year increase. The youngest age brackets heavily drove this increase.

Gen Z and Millennials grew balances 72% and 32%, respectively. Private label card balances are also at a record high, up 7.3% from last year. The private label total amount and average credit lines increased to record highs, as has the average number of accounts per consumer.

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Delinquencies rose in Q3 2022 and were slightly higher than the pre-pandemic levels. Bankcard charge-offs, for now, continued to decline, down for the sixth consecutive quarter. Charge-off balances show an upward trend among private labels after seven consecutive quarterly declines.

In recent quarters, unsecured personal loans have seen record growth in originations and balances. Trans Union said this growth had been fueled by significant increases in lending to below-prime risk tiers. This increase, combined with a general deterioration in the financial health of subprime consumers due to elevated inflation, has led to a rise in delinquencies, which have now surpassed pre-pandemic levels.

Lenders navigate delinquencies

As lenders navigate increasing delinquencies, a high inflation environment, capital constraints, and a potential recession, lending to below-prime risk tiers will likely slow down in the last two quarters of 2022, the firm said.

Key MetricsQ3 2022Q3 2021
Number of Credit Cards510.9 million474.2 million
Average Credit Card Debt per Borrower$5,474$4,857
Consumers with Access to a Personal Loan22.0 million19.2 million
Average Personal Loan Debt per Borrower$10,749$9,387
Loan Growth and Balances Rising for Credit Cards and Unsecured Personal Loans

TransUnion’s Credit Industry Indicator (CII) was relatively stable between Q2 and Q3 2022, ticking up one point to 120, but dropped from the prior year’s level of 126 in Q3 2021, primarily driven by the rising delinquencies across many product categories.

“Delinquencies remain in line with historical levels for most credit products. However, levels have been rising over the past year, particularly among subprime consumer segments,” Raneri said. “They should be monitored in the coming months to look for similar increases in other credit risk tiers.”

Highest balances on record

Bank card originations increased to 21.3 million in Q2 2022, up 10.7%. Data show growth in the leading risk categories were subprime, up 12.5%, and superprime, up 15.2%. Private label originations were up 8.4%, increasing to 12 million. The subprime share of overall private label originations increased to 22.5% of the total market.

Total bank card balances in Q3 2022 grew to a record $866 billion, a 19% bump YoY driven by card use across all risk tiers. Total private label balances increased 7.3% YoY, driven by subprime consumers, while the average consumer balance reached the highest point since 2Q 2020. Paul Siegfried, SVP and credit card business leader at TransUnion, said consumers turn to credit during high inflation.

“In this inflationary environment, consumers are increasingly turning to credit, as evidenced by the record total bankcard balances this quarter. This is particularly true among the subprime segment of consumers,” Siegfried said. “Delinquencies are rising, which is to be expected given the increase in consumers getting access to credit, many for the first time.”

The firm said that the total available bank card and average credit lines are at an all-time high. Consumers have a record number of cards in their wallets, driven by growth in the prime and below segments. The 90+ delinquency rate increased to 1.94% in Q3 2022, slightly above the 1.82% seen in Q3 2019. Private label 90+ DPD delinquency rate increased 56bps YoY to 1.52%. Total private label charge-off balances have started showing an upward trend after a seven consecutive quarterly decline.

“However, the numbers remain in relative alignment with historical pre-pandemic levels of 2019,” Siegfried said. “We are likely to see continued growth in credit card usage as increased interest rates and inflation continue to pressure consumers while employment numbers remain strong.”

Credit Card Lending MetricQ3 2022Q3 2021Q3 2020Q3 2019
Number of Credit Cards510.9 million474.2 million451.9 million441.9 million
Borrower-Level Delinquency Rate (90+ DPD)1.94%1.13%1.23%1.82%
Average Debt Per Borrower$5,474$4,857$5,068$5,658
Prior Quarter Originations*21.3 million19.3 million8.6 million16.5 million
Average New Account Credit Lines*$5,021$4,200$4,001$5,295
Q3 2022 Credit Card Trends

Personal loan consumers reach a record 22 million

As of Q3 2022, 22 million consumers had an unsecured personal loan, the highest number on record. Trans Union said this usage showed an expanding acceptance of this product type. Originations in Q2 2022 grew 36% YoY to reach six million, and all credit tiers experienced 30%+ growth.

Liz Pagel, SVP of consumer lending at TransUnion, said lenders expanded into below-prime risk levels to grow.

“Lenders’ expansion into below prime risk tiers has been a key driver of recent growth in unsecured personal loan originations,” Pagel said. “Additionally, originated loan amounts and average consumer balances have continued to increase, partially driven by higher prices.”

Total personal loan balances in Q3 2022 grew 34% YoY, reaching $210 billion. As Pagel said, the below-prime risk tier increased the most, up 58% compared to prime and above-risk tiers that grew only 24%. 

As subprime balances made a larger and larger share of personal loan balances, serious borrower delinquency of 60+ days past due grew to exceed pre-pandemic levels. The firm said the borrower delinquency rate stood at 3.89% in Q3 2022, a YoY increase of 54% and the highest since 2014.

“As expected, increased lending to higher risk tiers drove increased overall delinquency rates, with serious delinquencies now exceeding pre-pandemic levels,” Pagel said. “As we look to the rest of 2022 and next year, lenders will likely shift their originations focus towards prime and above credit risk tiers as they look to moderate risk in their portfolios while continuing to grow.”

Personal Loan MetricQ3 2022Q3 2021Q3 2020Q3 2019
Total Balances$210 billion$156 billion$148 billion$152 billion
Number of Unsecured Personal Loans26.4 million21.6 million21.4 million22.5 million
Number of Consumers with Unsecured Personal Loans22.0 million19.2 million19.5 million20.2 million
Borrower-Level Delinquency Rate (60+ DPD)3.89%2.52%2.55%3.30%
Average Debt Per Borrower$10,749$9,387$8,864$8,758
Prior Quarter Originations*6.0 million4.4 million2.6 million4.8 million
Average Balance of New Unsecured Personal Loans*$7,925$7,168$5,984$6,292

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

  • Kevin Travers

    Intensely energetic news reporter asking questions covering the collision between Silicon Valley, Wall Street, and everywhere in-between. Studied history at the University of Delaware, learned to write at the Review, and debanked. Email kevin@lendit.com with story ideas, questions, or to say hello.