Credit unions increased their share of lending in March forcredit cards and non-revolving loans, including automobiles, theFed reported Monday.

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The Fed's G-19 Consumer Lending Report showed creditunions made a strong gain in their share of consumer loans in Marchas their portfolios rose twice as fast as banks over the past yearand continued to rise from February to March, when banks'portfolios shrank.

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Consumer lending has become more important for lenders as realestate originations decline.

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Credit unions made strong gains in their share of consumer loansin March as their portfolios rose twice as fast as banks over thepast year and continued to rise from February to March, when bankportfolios shrank.

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Credit unions held $432.4 billion in consumer debt on March 31,up 11.8% from a year earlier. Balances rose 1.4% from February toMarch, compared with a 0.2% drop a year earlier. Credit unions'share of total consumer credit was 11.3% in March, compared with11.1% in February and 10.6% in March 2017.

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Banks held $1.57 trillion in consumer debt on March 31, up 5.7%from a year earlier. The drop from February to March was0.4%—matching the one-month decline from a year earlier.

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All lenders held $1.1 trillion in car loans on March 31, up 3.8%from a year earlier.

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The Fed reports motor vehicle loans every three months, but doesnot break that category down by type of lender. For credit unions,car loans as reported by CUNA Mutual Group have averaged 94% of theFed's number for credit union's non-revolving loans over previousthree months.

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If that percentage held for March, credit union automobile loansstood at about $351.4 million on March 31, or 31.4% of the U.S.auto loan market. That's up from a 29% share a year earlier and a30.5% share in December 2017.

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Credit unions posting large increases in car loans includedAmerica First FCU, Riverdale, Utah ($10 billion in assets, 949,099members), Randolph-Brooks FCU, San Antonio ($8.8 billion in assets,747,638 members) and Suncoast CU, Tampa, Fla. ($9.1 billion inassets, 763,709 members). Call reports filed this month with theNCUA show:

  • America First FCU held $859 million in new car loans on March31, up 24% from a year earlier, while used car loans grew 23.5% to$3.1 billion.
  • Suncoast CU's new car loans rose 23.2% to $1 billion, whileused cars rose 32.7% to $2 billion.
  • Randolph-Brooks FCU's new car loans rose 20.5% to $1.1 billion,while used car loans rose 27.1% to $1.9 billion.

However, car lending shrank at Security Service FCU of SanAntonio ($9.5 billion in assets, 765,305 members). Its new carloans fell 6% to $2.5 billion, while used car loans fell 4.2% to$2.6 billion.

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Another component of non-revolving loans were the $1.5 trillionin public and private student loans held by all lenders on March31, up 5.4% from a year earlier. The Fed also limits its report oftotal student loan balances to the ends of quarters.

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NCUA's latest number for private student loans held by creditunions was $4.4 billion as of Dec. 31, more than double the balancefive years earlier.

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Among credit unions, recent expansions in private student lending by the nation's twolargest credit unions continued be reflected in big portfolio gainsby Navy Federal of Vienna, Va., and PenFed of Tysons, Va. ($23.4billion in assets, 1.7 million members).

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PenFed nearly tripled its private student loan portfolio. Itheld $130.8 million on March 31, up from $45.7 million a yearearlier.

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However, several other large holders of private student loansshowed declines over the 12 months ending March 31. Studentloans:

  • Fell 11% to $55.8 million at BECU, Seattle ($18.6 billion inassets, 1.1 million members).
  • Fell 2.2% to $46.4 million at Star One CU, Sunnyvale, Calif.($9.1 billion in assets, 102,706 members).
  • Fell 5.2% to $49.2 million at Mountain America FCU, Salt LakeCity ($7.5 billion in assets, 746,526 members).

Credit unions held $56.9 billion in credit card debt on March31, up 8.6% from a year earlier. The balances fell 0.5% fromFebruary to March, compared with a 0.3% gain a year earlier.Nevertheless, credit unions' share of credit card debt was 5.8% inMarch, about the same as a month earlier and up from 5.6% in March2017.

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Some credit unions showed large gains well above average. Creditcard balances in the 12 months ending March 31:

  • Rose 25.6% to $310.4 million at First Tech FCU, Mountain View,Calif. ($11.8 billion in assets, 517,268 members).
  • Rose 28.5% to $426.3 million at Randolph-Brooks FCU ($8.8billion in assets, 747,638 members).
  • Rose 22.8% to $408.6 million at Mountain America FCU ($7.5billion in assets, 746,526 members).

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Jim DuPlessis

A journalist for decades.