US Consumer Borrowing Posts Small Gain, Limited by Credit Cards


(Bloomberg) — US consumer borrowing rose in March by the smallest amount this year as Americans relied less on credit cards.

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Total credit increased $6.3 billion after an upwardly revised $15 billion gain in February, according to Federal Reserve data released Tuesday. The March figure was below all but one estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists.

Revolving credit, which includes credit cards, rose $152 million, the smallest increase since falling three years ago. Non-revolving credit, such as loans for vehicle purchases and school tuition, increased $6.1 billion, a pickup from the prior month. The figures aren’t adjusted for inflation.

The small rise in revolving credit balances, if sustained, could represent a healthy development for consumer finances going forward. Still, with pandemic-era savings waning, consumers may find themselves having to rely more on credit cards, especially in the face of persistent inflation and high borrowing costs.

Delinquencies, while still historically low, have been on the rise, and more banks are increasing minimum credit score requirements to take out a loan, the Fed said in a report Monday.

Student loans have also long been a drag on many consumers’ finances. While President Joe Biden is trying to forgive some of that debt as he campaigns for reelection, he’s run into legal challenges. And borrowing costs are skyrocketing for those looking to cover college tuition this fall.

–With assistance from Chris Middleton.

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