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Credit card debt at two-year high heading into holiday season

Credit cards are displayed in Montreal in this file photo.

Ryan Remiorz/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Just ahead of stepped-up holiday spending, Canadians' credit card debt has reached a two-year high, according to monitoring agency TransUnion.

"With the holiday shopping season around the corner, we are going to keep a close eye on how [fourth quarter] spending affects debt levels on credit cards," said Jason Wang, TransUnion's director of research and industry analysis in Canada.

The average credit card debt in the third quarter of 2015 was $3,745, up 3.04 per cent from $3,634 in the year-earlier period, TransUnion said in its latest trends report, published Wednesday.

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Auto sector loans were also up – 2.87 per cent higher than a year earlier – at an average of $19,649 in the third quarter.

"The auto sector continues to thrive, thanks in part to lower oil prices, so balance increases are expected in this industry," Mr. Wang said.

Meanwhile, delinquency rates – the ratio of all accounts that are 90 or more days past due – have been stabilizing, TransUnion said. The delinquency rate in the third quarter was 2.60 per cent, a 5.5-per-cent improvement from the 2.75-per-cent rate in the same quarter last year, a sign that consumers are maintaining their ability to make payments on time, said the credit monitoring agency.

"Line of credit delinquency rates are now at the lowest levels we've seen since we began monitoring these statistics, Mr. Wang said.

"The recent interest-rate cuts have helped consumers manage their payments, but we advise consumers to always remember to spend within their means, regardless of whether interest rates are low or high."

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About the Author
Quebec Business Correspondent

Bertrand has been covering Quebec business and finance since 2000. Before joining The Globe and Mail in 2000, he was the Toronto-based national business correspondent for Southam News. He has a B.A. from McGill University and a Bachelor of Applied Arts from Ryerson. More

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