February 18, 2015

Holiday Shopping Spree Pushes Credit Card Debt Higher Across the U.S.

ATLANTA, Feb. 18, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- American consumers weren't afraid to wield their credit cards during the recent holiday shopping season, driving total credit card debt to its highest level in nearly five years, according to the latest National Consumer Credit Trends report released today by Equifax.

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Total consumer credit card debt rose to $642 billion in December, a nearly 6 percent jump compared to $607 billion in December 2013. This is the highest that credit card debt has been since April 2010.  Despite the increase in total debt, however, utilization, that is the percentage of total credit limit used, increased by less than 1 percent compared to the same time last year and remains down nearly 16 percent from the peak in early 2010.  This suggests that consumers continue to show restraint in their credit card use.

In each of the nation's top 25 metro areas, consumers increased credit card debt by at least 4 percent in 2014.That is a marked contrast to the previous year, when none of the top 25 markets saw as much as a 4 percent gain, and, in fact, some markets experienced decreases in total credit card debt.

"A rise in credit card debt indicates consumers are beginning to feel more confident about the economy and their personal finances," said Trey Loughran, president of Equifax Personal Information Solutions. "During the recession, many consumers felt uncertain about their financial futures. Consumers responsibly accessing credit is a positive sign for a healthy U.S. economy."

The metro areas that saw the sharpest increases in year-over-year credit card debt were Houston (9.4 percent), Orlando (9.2 percent) and Miami (8.7 percent), while those with the smallest increases were Seattle (4.3 percent), St. Louis (4.5 percent), and Cleveland (4.7 percent).

In previous Equifax credit trend reports, even when consumers were taking on more credit card debt, the increases were much smaller - especially in areas where economic recovery has been slower, such as Detroit. Yet even Detroit consumers posted a 4.8 percent gain from December 2013 to December 2014, suggesting that the economy is now fully in expansion mode.

Equifax noted that lenders are also more willing to issue credit cards to consumers, even those in the subprime credit category - that is, those with credit scores below 660.

"It's important for our economy that consumers, even those with blemishes on their credit histories, have access to credit so they can rebuild their credit portfolios," Loughran said.

Total Credit Card Debt: Top 25 Metropolitan Statistical Areas

December 2013 v. December 2014

Dec-13

Dec-14

% change

1

New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island NY-NJ-CT-PA

$51,625,050,433

$54,620,086,973

5.80%

2

Los Angeles-Riverside-Orange County CA

$35,355,305,673

$37,492,662,876

6.05%

3

Chicago-Gary-Kenosha IL-IN-WI CMSA

$21,040,156,884

$22,094,192,393

5.01%

4

Washington-Baltimore DC-MD-VA-WV CMSA

$22,792,654,501

$24,268,344,419

6.47%

5

San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose CA CMSA

$17,865,778,771

$18,837,825,206

5.44%

6

Philadelphia-Wilmington-Atlantic City PA-NJ-DE-MD CMSA

$14,640,716,154

$15,481,116,517

5.74%

7

Dallas-Fort Worth TX CMSA

$13,250,923,963

$14,268,885,668

7.68%

8

Boston-Worcester-Lawrence MA-NH-ME-CT CMSA

$14,057,761,296

$14,812,568,189

5.37%

9

Houston-Galveston-Brazoria TX CMSA

$11,702,393,989

$12,798,635,577

9.37%

10

Detroit-Ann Arbor-Flint MI CMSA

$10,025,911,986

$10,509,677,044

4.83%

11

Atlanta GA MSA

$10,891,215,478

$11,700,742,171

7.43%

12

Miami-Fort Lauderdale FL CMSA

$8,944,092,526

$9,721,585,850

8.69%

13

Phoenix-Mesa AZ MSA

$8,034,091,603

$8,556,407,068

6.50%

14

Seattle-Tacoma-Bremerton WA CMSA

$10,035,629,847

$10,465,895,111

4.29%

15

Minneapolis-St. Paul MN-WI MSA

$7,438,698,784

$7,797,636,302

4.83%

16

San Diego CA MSA

$7,312,094,668

$7,747,083,224

5.95%

17

Denver-Boulder-Greeley CO CMSA

$7,286,551,022

$7,671,583,177

5.28%

18

Cleveland-Akron OH CMSA

$5,761,446,380

$6,033,368,483

4.72%

19

Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater FL MSA

$5,963,299,456

$6,411,715,491

7.52%

20

St. Louis MO-IL MSA

$5,653,280,055

$5,904,876,530

4.45%

21

Portland-Salem OR-WA CMSA

$5,366,832,117

$5,658,610,609

5.44%

22

Pittsburgh PA MSA

$4,930,342,243

$5,211,053,489

5.69%

23

Las Vegas NV-AZ MSA

$3,864,048,330

$4,199,268,280

8.68%

24

Sacramento-Yolo CA CMSA

$4,418,770,802

$4,655,682,524

5.36%

25

Orlando FL MSA

$4,214,133,758

$4,600,187,871

9.16%


National Total

$606,745,952,291

$642,397,675,342

5.88%

About Equifax
Equifax Personal Solutions empowers consumers with the confidence and control to be their financial best. Find out more about Equifax's innovative suite of credit monitoring and identity theft protection products at www.equifax.com. Learn about identity theft and how to help better protect yourself and your family at IdentityProtection.com. Get smart information on everything from credit to retirement, all in one place at the Equifax Finance Blog, blog.equifax.com.

Equifax is a global leader in consumer, commercial and workforce information solutions that provide businesses of all sizes and consumers with insight and information they can trust. Equifax organizes and assimilates data on more than 600 million consumers and 81 million businesses worldwide.  The company's significant investments in differentiated data, its expertise in advanced analytics to explore and develop new multi-source data solutions, and its leading-edge proprietary technology enable it to create and deliver unparalleled customized insights that enrich both the performance of businesses and the lives of consumers.

Headquartered in Atlanta, Equifax operates or has investments in 19 countries and is a member of Standard & Poor's (S&P) 500® Index.  Its common stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) under the symbol EFX. In 2013, Equifax was named a Bloomberg BusinessWeek Top 50 company, was #3 in Fortune's Most Admired list in its category, and was named to InfoWeek 500 as well as the FinTech 100. For more information, please visit www.equifax.com.

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