Card borrowing lags while student, auto loans soar

In just four years, debt for student loans and cars has rocketed past credit card debt and continues to rise, while Americans' total card debt is stuck back at levels from a decade ago, a Federal Reserve Bank of New York report shows.

As of the third quarter of 2014, Americans' total debt for student loans was at $1.13 trillion, up 10 percent when compared to the previous year. Auto loan debts totaled $934 billion, 11 percent higher. Credit card balances were up 1 percent for the year, to $680 billion, but far below their peak in 2008, when they hit $866 billion.

Contrast those numbers to just a little more than four years ago, in the first quarter of 2010. Then, Americans owed more on their credit cards than on either student or auto loans.

The numbers all crisscrossed after the Great Recession:

  • Credit card borrowing pulled back as consumers pulled back on card debt -- or had their cards canceled by skittish card issuers. Total borrowing on credit cards remains depressed near the level it was in 2003.
  • Auto loans slumped, then recovered.
  • Student loan  borrowing continued its stratospheric rise.

Of debts measured by the New York Fed, only home equity lines of credit declined, by 4 percent year on year to $512 billion, while mortgages were up by 3 percent for the year to $8.13 trillion.

The figures were constructed from a nationally representative random sample of 40 million credit reports drawn from credit bureau Equifax's consumers credit report data.


See related: NY Fed: Consumer debt up in 2nd quarter, More infographics

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Updated: 03-21-2019