According to national consumer credit trends data from Equifax, total consumer debt grew in almost all of the largest metro areas at the end of 2013, due in large part to gains in credit card and mortgage debt.
“Consumers overall are feeling more comfortable about the economy and their own financial prospects, so they’re willing to take on debt for the right reasons,” said Trey Loughran, president of Equifax Personal Solutions. “But in areas where the economy still lags, consumers are being more cautious and financially prudent.”
The Houston, Denver, and Dallas metros saw the highest overall gains in consumer debt from the fourth quarter of 2012 to the fourth quarter of 2013, with consumer debt growing 5.91 percent, 3.94 percent, and 3.89 percent, respectively. Mortgage debt was a key factor in debt growth in those markets.
In the metros that saw consumer debt decline—Miami (-3.3 percent), Las Vegas (-2.0 percent), Orlando (-0.5 percent) and Tampa (-0.4 percent)—the continued slow recovery of the real estate market was a factor.
All of the top 25 markets except for Detroit showed a growth in auto loan balances of more than 6 percent.
Credit card debt, meanwhile, rose in all 25 markets, which accrued more debt for holiday gifts this past season than in the year before. In Houston, credit card debt rose 4.5 percent in January, compared with the same period the prior year. Credit card debt increased 3.5 percent in Dallas and 3.2 percent in Miami, followed by Las Vegas, up 2.9 percent. Metro markets showing a large decline in mortgage growth—Miami, Tampa, Orlando, and Las Vegas—also showed an increase in credit card spending, which suggests the healing process is underway.
“People are starting to see a turnaround in the economy and are making reasonable borrowing and spending decisions again,” Loughran said.
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