The Federal Reserve’s latest G.19 Consumer Credit Report shows trends in consumer credit, excluding loans secured by real estate, through November 2020.
In the penultimate month of 2020, consumer credit increased at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.4%, with revolving debt1 decreasing by 1.0% and nonrevolving debt2 increasing by 6.1%. Consumer credit totaled $4.2 trillion on a seasonally adjusted basis, with $979 billion in revolving debt and $3.2 trillion in nonrevolving debt. This is a net increase of $15 billion from the previous month, with non-revolving credit increasing by $16 billion and revolving credit decreasing by $1 billion.
The recent monthly decrease in revolving credit, of which credit card debt is a large component, is part of a wider trend of declining open-ended credit that began at the outset of the current pandemic. Unlike non-revolving (closed-ended) credit, it has not been increasing historically. As of November, closed-ended credit constituted 77% of all non-real estate-related consumer credit. In the first 11 months of 2020, U.S. consumers have paid down a record $115 billion in credit card debt. The last time that open-ended credit experienced such sustained declines was during and in the immediate months ensuing the Great Recession of 2008-2009.
Interestingly, the non-seasonally adjusted data of open-ended credit show a significant increase since the previous month. This may owe to the flurry of post-Thanksgiving Day (“Black Friday”) sales at major U.S. retailers.
- Revolving credit plans are largely composed of credit card debt but also include home equity lines of credit (HELOCs). These may be unsecured or secured by collateral and allow a consumer to borrow up to a prearranged limit and repay the debt in one or more installments. The G.19 Consumer Credit report excludes HELOCS and home equity loans, as they are secured by real estate.
- Nonrevolving credit is closed-end credit extended to consumers that is repaid on a prearranged repayment schedule and may be secured or unsecured.