Consumer Credit Report Provides Snapshot of Credit Standing for Average Consumer

December 22, 2014
By Kelly D. Edmiston, Senior Economist


An understanding of current consumer credit conditions in the District is important for evaluating and addressing problems in personal finances.

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The Kansas City Fed releases a biannual Consumer Credit Report: one for the Tenth District and one for each of the District’s seven states, which are Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Wyoming.1 The Consumer Credit Report series is designed to present a snapshot of the credit position of the average consumer.

An understanding of current consumer credit conditions in the District is important for evaluating and addressing trends in personal finances, ensuring the stability of the financial system and designing policies to promote growth and stability in economic activity. High levels of mortgage and consumer debt, delinquencies on consumer debt, and poor credit histories were partly responsible for the housing bust that began in 2007 and continues to a lesser degree today. The housing bust, in turn, was largely responsible for the ensuing financial crisis. Heavy student loan debt loads and high delinquency rates have led to policy proposals, and in some cases, implementation, of methods for addressing student loan debt and performance.

The Consumer Credit Report provides data on a variety of consumer credit indicators. Long-term trends in average consumer debt, which is defined in the report as total debt minus first mortgages, are provided along with trends in revolving debt.2 Revolving debt consists of balances on open lines of credit, such as credit cards and home equity lines of credit. In addition to a long-term trend, consumer debt levels in every District state are compared to levels in all other District states, the District, and nation as a whole. One-year changes also are reported.

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In the third quarter of 2014, average consumer debt in the District was $16,105—up 4.3 percent from its 2012 post-recession low. Revolving debt was $4,941 after declining in every quarter for nearly five years, and was down 26 percent from its peak in the second quarter of 2009.

Several charts report the degree to which borrowers are successful in managing their debt payments. A delinquency rate on any debt is presented, along with delinquency rates specifically for auto debt, student loan debt and bank card debt. The personal bankruptcy filing rate also is included. Another chart reports mortgage delinquencies. In support of the mortgage delinquencies data, a map shows the geographic distribution of seriously delinquent mortgage rates.3

The District consumer credit delinquency rate was flat in the third quarter at 4.1 percent for any account, well below the national rate of 5.8 percent. Student loan delinquencies dipped modestly in the third quarter after rising steadily for several quarters. While student loan delinquency rates have fluctuated periodically over the last decade, the secular trend is clearly up.

The District auto loan delinquency rate has moderated over the last year, remaining at 7.6 percent in the third quarter of 2014. Bank card delinquencies have declined consistently since the early months of the economic recovery, falling to 4.4 percent in the third quarter. 2 District consumer bankruptcy filing rates declined across the District in the third quarter, in some cases substantially. The overall District rate fell from 84.3 bankruptcy filings per 10,000 households to 77.1, while the U.S. rate fell to 81.5 from 87.7. The mortgage delinquency rate in the District increased to 6.3 percent in the third quarter from 6.0 percent in the first quarter. The increase in past-due mortgage rates reversed a decreasing trend and occurred in spite of generally positive developments in housing markets.

The Consumer Credit Report offers a special topic in each edition. These special topics have included debt burden, bankruptcy, student loans, credit utilization, and the treatment of joint accounts in computing debt and delinquency figures. The third quarter 2014 special topic was “Developments in the Automobile Credit Market.” Auto loan balances have increased significantly from late 2009. While auto lending has increased, delinquencies have declined.

Visit current and past issues of the Consumer Credit Report.

Endnotes

[1] Only the western third of Missouri and the northern half of New Mexico are part of the Tenth District. The remainders of Missouri and New Mexico are in the respective Districts of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis (Eighth) and Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas (Eleventh). The Consumer Credit Report reflects credit conditions in the entirety of each state.

[2] First mortgages are rarely used for consumption purposes; however, second mortgages often are used to finance consumer spending.

[3] Seriously delinquent mortgages are 90 days or more past due or in foreclosure.

[4] “Bank cards” are largely branded (e.g., MasterCard or VISA) credit cards issued by financial institutions, mostly large commercial banks. Retail store credit cards (e.g., Target Red Card) generally are excluded, as are other nonbank cards (Target Corporation operates an industrial bank through which activities on its cards are processed).