Younger Borrowers Are Struggling with Credit Card and Auto Loan Payments
Total debt balances grew by $394 billion in the fourth quarter of 2022, the largest nominal quarterly increase in twenty years, according to the latest Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit from the New York Fed’s Center for Microeconomic Data. Mortgage balances, the largest form of household debt, drove the increase with a gain […]
Balances Are on the Rise—So Who Is Taking on More Credit Card Debt?
Total household debt balances continued their upward climb in the third quarter of 2022 with an increase of $351 billion, the largest nominal quarterly increase since 2007. This rise was driven by a $282 billion increase in mortgage balances, according to the latest Quarterly Report on Household Debt & Credit from the New York Fed’s Center for Microeconomic Data. Mortgages, historically the largest form of household debt, now comprise 71 percent of outstanding household debt balances, up from 69 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019. An increase in credit card balances was also a boost to the total debt balances, with credit card balances up $38 billion from the previous quarter. On a year-over-year basis, this marked a 15 percent increase, the largest in more than twenty years. Here, we take a closer look at the variation in credit card trends for different demographics of borrowers using our Consumer Credit Panel (CCP), which is based on credit reports from Equifax.
Refinance Boom Winds Down
Total household debt balances continued their upward climb in the first quarter of 2022 with an increase of $266 billion; this rise was primarily driven by a $250 billion increase in mortgage balances, according to the latest Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Creditfrom the New York Fed’s Center for Microeconomic Data. Mortgages, historically the largest form of household debt, now comprise 71 percent of outstanding household debt balances, up from 69 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019. Driving the increase in mortgage balances has been a high volume of new mortgage originations, which we define as mortgages that newly appear on credit reports and includes both purchase and refinance mortgages. There has been $8.4 trillion in new mortgage debt originated in the last two years, as a steady upward climb in purchase mortgages was accompanied by an historically large boom in mortgage refinances. Here, we take a close look at these refinances, and how they compare to recent purchase mortgages, using our Consumer Credit Panel, which is based on anonymized credit reports from Equifax.
Student Loan Repayment during the Pandemic Forbearance
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic brought substantial financial uncertainty for many Americans. In response, executive and legislative actions in March and April 2020 provided unprecedented debt relief by temporarily lowering interest rates on Direct federal student loans to 0 percent and automatically placing these loans into administrative forbearance. As a result, nearly 37 million borrowers have not been required to make payments on their student loans since March 2020, resulting in an estimated $195 billion worth of waived payments through April 2022. However, 10 million borrowers with private loans or Family Federal Education Loan (FFEL) loans owned by commercial banks were not granted the same relief and continued to make payments during the pandemic. Data show that Direct federal borrowers slowed their paydown, with very few making voluntary payments on their loans. FFEL borrowers, who were not covered by the automatic forbearance, struggled with their debt payments during this time. The difficulties faced by these borrowers in managing their student loans and other debts suggest that Direct borrowers will face rising delinquencies once forbearance ends and payments resume.
Car Prices Drive Up Borrowing
Total household debt increased substantially during the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a $1.02 trillion increase in aggregate debt balances, according to the Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit for the fourth quarter of 2021 from the New York Fed’s Center for Microeconomic Data. The yearly increase was the largest seen since 2007 in nominal terms and was boosted by particularly robust growth in mortgage balances, which grew by nearly $900 billion through 2021. Credit card balances, which have followed an unusual path during the pandemic, saw a large seasonal increase in the fourth quarter but remain well below pre-pandemic levels. And student loan balances increased only modestly through 2021 due to lower enrollment and also due to administrative forbearance on federal student loans—the smallest annual increase we’ve seen since 2004. Outstanding auto loan balances grew in 2021 by $84 billion. The $734 billion in newly opened auto loans through the year was the largest volume we’ve seen in our data.
Credit Card Trends Begin to Normalize after Pandemic Paydown
Today, the New York Fed’s Center for Microeconomic Data released its Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit for the third quarter of 2021. Overall debt balances increased, bolstered primarily by a sizeable increase in mortgage balances, and for the second consecutive quarter, an increase in credit card balances. The changes in credit card balances in the second and third quarters of 2021 are remarkable since they appear to be a return to the normal seasonal patterns in balances. In a Liberty Street Economics post earlier this year we wrote about some demographic variation in these balance changes and the likely role of stimulus checks and forbearance programs in helping borrowers pay down expensive revolving debt balances. Here, we’ll take a fresh look at credit card balances and at the dynamics behind new and closing credit card accounts and limit changes, to examine how credit access and usage continue to evolve. The Quarterly Report and this analysis are based on our Consumer Credit Panel, which is itself based on Equifax credit data.
Forbearance Participation Declines as Programs’ End Nears
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Center for Microeconomic Data today released its Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit for the second quarter of 2021. It showed that overall household debt increased at a quick clip over the period, with a $322 billion increase in balances, boosted primarily by a 2.8 percent increase in mortgage balances, a 2.2 percent increase in credit card balances, and a 2.4 percent increase in auto balances. Mortgage balances in particular were boosted by a record $1.22 trillion in newly originated loans. Although some borrowers are originating new loans, struggling borrowers remain in forbearance programs, where they are pausing repayment on their debts and creating an additional upward pressure on outstanding mortgage balances.
Who Received Forbearance Relief?
Forbearance on debt repayment was a key provision of the CARES Act, legislation intended to combat the widespread economic losses stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. This pause on required payments for federally guaranteed mortgages and student loans has provided temporary relief to those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and servicers of nonfederal loans often provided forbearances or other relief on request as well. Here, using a special survey section fielded with the August 2020 Survey of Consumer Expectations, we aim to understand who benefitted from these provisions. Specifically, were there differences by age, race, income, and educational background? Did individuals who suffered job or income losses benefit differentially? Did renters receive more or less nonhousing debt relief than homeowners? Answers to these questions are not only key for understanding the economic recovery and implications for inequality and equitable growth, they can provide important insight into the expected effects of more recent and potential future legislation.
What’s Next for Forborne Borrowers?
We’ve spent the first three posts of this series discussing who has entered mortgage forbearance, and how their personal finances have developed during the course of the pandemic. In this fourth and final post, we will use Consumer Credit Panel (CCP) data to examine the profiles of those who remain in forbearance and those who have exited, and how the performance of household credit may evolve as the force of the pandemic begins to ebb and the economy reopens and normalizes.
Small Business Owners Turn to Personal Credit
In our first post in this series we showed that mortgage provisions under the CARES ACT and its subsequent extensions resulted in a rapid take-up of mortgage forbearances, under which borrowers had the option to pause or reduce debt service payments without inducing a delinquency notation on their credit reports. Here we examine the forbearance take-up rate of a group of mortgage borrowers we expect to have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic recession: small business owners. Relatively little is known about how small business owners have fared over the past year in terms of their personal finances. Were they able to continue making mortgage payments on their homes? Did they draw on home equity to help fund their business operations?