TransUnion's quarterly analysis of Canadian credit trends found that the average consumer's total debt (excluding mortgage) jumped 4.6 percent to $26,768 in the third quarter ended Sept. 30, the largest increase in nearly two years.
The increase in average debt was consistent throughout Canada. On a year-over-year basis, the largest increases were found in New Brunswick (9.49 percent), Prince Edward Island (8.25 percent) and Newfoundland and Labrador (7.83 percent).
"At this time last year, we were encouraged to see consumer total debt levels remain relatively stagnant for three consecutive quarters," said Thomas Higgins, TransUnion's vice president of analytics and decision services. "One year later, it appears we have reversed course as consumer total debt has increased for three straight quarters. While delinquency levels remain about the same or lower than they were one year ago, it should be noted that in the past five years debt levels have now increased 400% more than the rate of inflation."
In the last five years between Q3 2007 and Q3 2012, inflation in Canada as measured by the Consumer Price Index has risen 9 percent, yet total consumer debt (excluding mortgage) has jumped more than 37 percent.
Despite year-over-year growth on total consumer debt, directional changes in debt levels varied for several credit instruments.
• Canadian average credit card borrower debt (defined as the aggregate balance on all credit cards for an individual bankcard borrower) declined 1.04% year over year, but increased 0.48% on a quarter-over-quarter basis.
• Canadian lines of credit (LOC) borrower debt (defined as the aggregate balance on all LOC for an individual LOC borrower) decreased 0.21% year over year, with an increase of 0.98% quarter over quarter.
• Canadian installment loan borrower debt (defined as the aggregate balance on all installment loans for an individual installment loan borrower) increased 2.28% year over year and 1.58% quarter over quarter.
• Canadian auto borrower debt (defined as the aggregate balance on all auto captive loans for an individual auto captive borrower) increased more than 11.25% year over year and 1.84% quarter over quarter.
Delinquency levels continue to remain low across all major product categories.
"Despite increased debt levels, Canadian consumers have done well to maintain relatively low delinquency rates," said Higgins. "It should be noted that many consumers are taking advantage of the low interest rate environment. Just five years ago, interest rates were significantly higher than they are today."