TransUnion's quarterly analysis of Canadian credit trends found that the average consumer's total debt (excluding mortgage) increased nearly 6% from $25,960 at the end of 2011 to $27,485 in Q4 2012.
The year-over-year increase was the largest of its kind for a fourth quarter since 2009, when total debt jumped 8.9%. On a quarterly basis, national debt levels rose 2.7%, the largest such increase between the third and fourth quarters since 2008.
"Increases in personal debt are not surprising during the final quarter of the year as consumers tend to spend more during the holiday season," said Thomas Higgins, TransUnion's vice president of analytics and decision services. "The rise on a year-over-year basis should be more concerning as Canadians' debt loads increased by more than $1,500."
The increase in average debt was consistent throughout Canada, with all provinces experiencing increases except for British Columbia, which showed a marginal decline of 0.09%. On a year-over-year basis, the largest increases were found in Alberta (11.20%), Quebec (9.39%) and Prince Edward Island (9.04%).
"Balance changes were as expected, though British Columbia's drop was the most eye-opening observation from the data," Higgins said. "It should be noted, though, that British Columbia has the highest debt levels in the nation."
Delinquency levels continue to remain low across all major product categories.
"While Canadian debt levels continue their upward track, delinquency levels remain low, and in some cases, are drifting even lower," said Higgins. "It's an especially positive sign to see lines of credit, which make up the majority of personal debt when excluding mortgages, experience yearly declines in delinquencies."
Total consumer debt increases were seen across all product categories.
• Canadian average credit card borrower debt (defined as the aggregate balance on all credit cards for an individual bankcard borrower) inched up 0.12% year over year for the first time in over two years, buoyed by a strong seasonal increase of 1.79% 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) increased 2.64% year over year after two quarters of decline, with an above average increase of 3.52% quarter over quarter.
• Canadian installment loan borrower debt (defined as the aggregate balance on all installment loans for an individual installment loan borrower) increased 6.71% year over year, its largest in two years, and 1.64% quarter over quarter.
• Canadian auto borrower debt (defined as the aggregate balance on all auto captive loans for an individual auto captive borrower) increased 8.93% year over year, the first single digit increase in a year and only 0.61% quarter over quarter.