Consumer holiday spending drove total credit card debt to its highest level in nearly five years, hitting $642 billion in December, a 6% gain over the prior year.
However, Equifax says its data show consumers continue to show restraint in their credit card use. Despite the increase in total debt, however, utilization, that is the percentage of total credit limit used, increased by less than 1% compared to the same time last year and remains down nearly 16% from the peak in early 2010.
In each of the nation’s top 25 metro areas, consumers increased credit card debt by at least 4% in 2014.That is a marked contrast to the previous year, when none of the top 25 markets saw as much as a 4% gain, and, in fact, some markets experienced decreases in total credit card debt.
The metro areas that saw the sharpest increases in year-over-year credit card debt were Houston (9.4%), Orlando (9.2%) and Miami (8.7%), while those with the smallest increases were Seattle (4.3%), St. Louis (4.5%), and Cleveland (4.7%).
Equifax further 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.
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