Equifax, one of the three national credit reporting agencies, is reporting that consumers are keeping more up to date on not just their credit cards, but their auto loans, mortgage loans, home equity and other consumer finance loans as well.
"Consumers continue to improve their credit management, through higher monthly payments on card accounts, refinancing of existing mortgage debt at lower rates, and lower delinquency rates pretty much across the board," said Equifax Chief Economist Amy Crews Cutts. "Growth in total credit is consistent with the overall improvement in the economy – slow, but steady – with the exception of mortgage debt which is declining overall."
The decline in mortgage debt is due to loans converting to real estate owned at the end of the foreclosure process, homeowners paying down debt faster through cash-in refinancing, or shortening of the mortgage term as well as borrowers curtailing the debt by adding a bit extra to their payment each month, Cutts added.
“In stark contrast to overall improvements in consumer repayment behavior, student loan delinquencies and write-offs have increased significantly over the past 12 months,” the Equifax economist said.
Equifax data showed that auto loan 60-day plus delinquency rates declined 35%, credit card 60-day plus delinquency rates declined 21%, first mortgage 30-day plus delinquency rates declined 15% and home equity revolving 30-day plus delinquency rates declined 7%.
By contrast, the credit bureau reported that write-off rates among student loans increased more than 29% month-to-month from June-July 2012, student loan 60-day delinquency rates increased more than 14% year-to-year from July 2011-2012, student loan balances increased $58.5 billion year-over-year from July 2011-2012 and the total number of student loans has increased nearly 24% from July 2011 (89 million) to July 2012 (116 million).
"Student loans is one area of lending not affected by tighter underwriting standards since the start of the recession," said Cutts. "The investment in higher education pays off over a person's lifetime, while the tuition cost has to be paid up-front, leading to big demand for student loans.
“Unfortunately, the current job market has not been kind to new graduates and their student loans start to come due once they graduate – if they don't have a job by the time the first installment is due, they can find themselves in quite a jam."