Canadian Consumer Credit Market Driven by Strong Credit Activity

  • In Q3 2022, TransUnion’s Credit Industry Indicator remained steady and close to pre-pandemic levels
  • Strong credit activity driven by higher consumer participation and consumer-level balance growth
  • Growth in credit usage and stability in performance somewhat offset by slowing credit demand in a high inflation and interest rate environment

TORONTO, Nov. 29, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- TransUnion today released the findings of its Canada Q3 2022 Credit Industry Insights Report (CIIR), which shows that more Canadian consumers are utilizing credit. Credit participation reached a new record high, with 27.9 million Canadians having active credit products with a total outstanding balance of $2.29 trillion. This is a year-over-year (YoY) increase of 7.9%, on a three-year compound annual growth rate of +6.4%.

As part of the CIIR, TransUnion maps consumer credit market health with its Credit Industry Indicator (CII), which rose 3.5 points YoY to 105.6 in September 2022, staying relatively steady following the Q2 2022 score of 103.8, after reaching a high of 110.8 in April this year.

“Rising CII levels generally indicate an improvement in the overall activity and health of the consumer credit market, which in the most recent quarter was primarily propelled by the strong credit activity due to balance growth and continued higher spend levels,” said Matt Fabian, director of financial services research and consulting at TransUnion in Canada.

“Credit performance remains relatively healthy compared to pre-pandemic levels, although the CII was offset somewhat by slowing credit demand in a high interest rate environment, with lenders also being more cautious in anticipation of continued macroeconomic headwinds,” he added.

Chart 1: Canadian Credit Industry Indicator

Chart 1: Canadian Credit Industry Indicator

A photo accompanying this announcement is available at

Source: TransUnion Canada consumer credit database.
(i) A lower CII number compared to the prior period represents a decline in credit health, while a higher number reflects an improvement. The CII number needs to be looked at in relation to the previous period(s) and not in isolation. In September 2022, the CII of 105.6 represented an improvement in credit health compared to the same month prior year (September 2021) and a slight increase in credit health compared to the prior quarter (June 2022).

Consumer balances growing at a healthy pace
Growth in the number of consumers carrying a balance was the highest among subprime* consumers (those consumers with higher risk of default), with the number of consumers in this segment growing by 7.2% YoY in Q3, although their share of balances remained relatively low compared to other consumer segments. This marks a re-engagement with credit among these consumers after a decline during the pandemic, likely led by the effects of inflation along with lenders increasing their participation in the subprime consumer space.

Credit participation increased mostly amongst those in Generation Z (born between 1995 and 2010) with a YoY increase of 20.9% as more Gen Z consumers entered the credit market and this cohort expanded the use of different products. Credit participation increased 3.6% YoY among Millennials (born between 1981 and 1994), whose non-mortgage balances grew the fastest at 13.3% YoY. Credit participation among Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) and the Silent Generation (born between 1928 and 1945) declined by -1.0% and -6.6%, respectively.

Overall, non-mortgage debt increased by 2.0% YoY, driven by increased credit card and line of credit balances. Inflation and a higher cost of living eroded both disposable income and the savings rate, leading to an increased reliance on credit.

Growth in the minimum required payment was led by mortgages, as the average consumer’s monthly mortgage payment increased by 9.3%, driven by a combination of rate increases and home prices. Credit card minimum payments increased by 7.4% driven by increased utilization and balances. Auto loans increased by 2.6% as vehicle purchase prices also continued to increase.

Table 1: Balance Growth by Product

Average balance per consumerQ3 2019Q3 2020Q3 2021Q3 2022YoY % change% Change from 2019
Credit Cards$4,163$3,663$3,575$3,9139.44%-6.01%
Auto Loans$24,285$24,488$25,200$26,0823.50%7.40%
Lines of Credit$35,566$34,001$33,431$34,9684.60%-1.68%
Recent Mortgages$273,577$286,669$314,260$343,6129.34%25.60%

“Inflationary pressure is likely contributing to higher spend levels relative to income as cost of living increases have eroded Canadians’ disposable income and savings rates,” Fabian said. “They are increasingly reliant on credit to bridge that gap. Additionally, an increasing interest rate environment continues to increase the cost of certain debt which puts additional pressure on some consumers.”

Ongoing volatility creates shifts in consumer behaviour
Recent TransUnion Canada analysis looked at the changing debt behaviours of Canadians. The study looked at more than 21 million Canadian credit consumers over a 12 month period to observe consumer credit behaviour through the pandemic. The study followed consumers through two different time periods – 2019 and 2021 – to identify differences in credit utilization and balance behaviour pre- and during the pandemic and revealed a number of trends. While households accumulated a record amount of savings during the peak of the pandemic, the gains were not evenly distributed. As savings have subsequently deteriorated in the current adverse macroeconomic environment, a growing inequality in household wealth is driving different responses.

TransUnion analysis revealed that an equal number of consumers were leveraging – increasing their debt balances by at least 20% – as were deleveraging – shrinking their balances by 20%. During the pandemic, just over 50% of deleveraging consumers reduced their pre-pandemic balances by over half.

Those building their balances were doing so across primarily unsecured credit products – credit card, line of credit and personal loan – with 70% of these leveraging consumers being scored above prime* (i.e. lower risk). Lenders were increasing limits on credit products over the same 12 month period to these consumers, as their demand for credit increased.

The consumers that were deleveraging their credit were primarily doing so by paying down auto loans, mortgages and home equity loans.

“Deleveraging activity reduces overall debt, but it also lowers consumption and spending, which can limit credit growth in an economy if it happens during an economic downturn or recession. During a downturn, consumers prioritize what they’re spending money on. As lenders prepare for the next possible downturn, understanding consumers’ financial durability becomes important in identifying growth opportunities,” Fabian explained.

Inflation remains a concern for Canadians
TransUnion Canada’s Q3 Consumer Pulse survey to over 1,200 Canadian consumers indicates that inflation concerns continued as households shifted their behaviours and reduced spending to potentially cope with rising costs. Inflation was a growing concern: 69% of households cited inflation as their biggest or second biggest concern affecting household finances in the next six months. Furthermore, 55% of households indicated their incomes weren’t keeping up with inflation. When it comes to a potential recession, Canadians said they’re shifting some behaviours to prepare by reducing spending (68%), building up savings (32%) or paying down debt (31%).

Increased credit activity approaches pre-pandemic norms
Delinquency levels, led primarily by installment loans and credit cards where serious delinquency was up by 12 bps and 13 bps respectively, have been trending towards pre-pandemic levels. The recent surge in below prime originations (an increase of +11% YoY in Q2 2022 – latest data available for originations due to reporting lag) is likely a factor in this trend. It is important to note that, while delinquency is generally trending up, delinquency rates in general are still below pre-pandemic levels, apart from personal loans.

Table 2: Delinquency Rates by Product

DPD – days past due payment

 Q3 2019Q3 2020Q3 2021Q3 2022YoY change (bps)bps Change from 2019
Credit Cards (90+ DPD)0.92%0.59%0.59%0.72%13-20
Auto Finance (60+ DPD)0.90%0.86%0.67%0.76%9-14
Line of Credit (60+ DPD)0.31%0.26%0.20%0.24%4-7
Mortgage (60+ DPD)0.29%0.26%0.21%0.18%-3-11

“The Canadian credit market remained healthy and active during Q3 2022, despite the inflationary pressures,” Fabian said. “The economic outlook remains challenging, with high inflation, rising interest rates and stock market volatility negatively impacting consumers; at the same time, the strong employment market has provided income stability. While some increases in delinquency rates are still expected in the coming months, a sound jobs picture and Canadian consumers’ resilience suggests that there are growth opportunities in the credit market among the various economic challenges.”

For more information about the Q3 2022 Credit Industry Insights Report, please click here.


*According to TransUnion VantageScore® 3.0, score ranges are: Subprime 300 – 600, Near Prime 601 – 657, Prime 658 – 719, Above Prime 720 – 780, and Super Prime 781 – 850.

About TransUnion (NYSE: TRU)

TransUnion is a global information and insights company that makes trust possible in the modern economy. We do this by providing an actionable picture of each person so they can be reliably represented in the marketplace. As a result, businesses and consumers can transact with confidence and achieve great things. We call this Information for Good®. TransUnion provides solutions that help create economic opportunity, great experiences and personal empowerment for hundreds of millions of people in more than 30 countries. Our customers in Canada comprise some of the nation’s largest banks and card issuers, and TransUnion is a major credit reporting, fraud, and analytics solutions provider across the finance, retail, telecommunications, utilities, government and insurance sectors.

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