Consumers Lean on Credit Cards: Alberta has the Highest Debt Levels in the Country

Canadian consumers are turning to credit to meet their financial needs. Credit card spending is at an all-time high when compared to the same period in previous years. For consumers with a credit card, the average monthly credit card spend was almost $2,447 in Q3, up by 17.3 per cent compared to Q3 2021 and 21.8 percent from the pre-pandemic, Q3 2019, period. 

With rising credit card demand and balances, consumer debt and delinquency rates should be watched closely. Alberta continues to lead with the highest non-mortgage debt levels and delinquency rate. Credit insights below can help you understand consumer behaviour and what to watch out for in 2023. 

Factors that affect credit activity

Various economic factors impact consumer credit activity. Some recent factors in Q3 2022 that have led to a rise in credit-active individuals include population growth from immigration and increased demand for goods and services from the pandemic. Over the last quarter, almost 1.5 million new credit cards were issued, an increase of 22.5 percent from Q3 2021. With an increase in consumer credit demand and spending, the risk of payment delinquency also increases. Rebecca Oakes, Vice-President of Advanced Analytics at Equifax Canada, stated in our quarterly trends webinar that “part of the new credit uptake we’re seeing is likely from people who are feeling financial stress from sustained increased living costs and are taking on more debt as a result.” 

Analysis of debt and default rates by province 

Higher new loans and inflation-related spending pushed non-mortgage debt to $599.9 billion, up 5.3 per cent from Q3 2021. The average debt by province in Canada is $21,183, the highest level since Q2 2020. Below is the breakdown of the three highest debt levels by province for Q3 2022. 

  • Alberta had an average debt of $24,926. It also has the highest delinquency rate at 1.29 percent

  • Newfoundland had an average debt of $23,033.

  • Prince Edward Island had an average debt of $22,303. This is an increase of 0.94 percent year-over-year. 

  • Saskatchewan had an average debt of $22,626. 

  • British Columbia had an average debt of $22,009.  

An analysis of average debt across all provinces, age groups, and major cities can be found in Equifax Canada's latest press release: Total Consumer Debt Climbs to $2.36 Trillion as Consumers Lean on Credit Cards


Perspectives to keep in mind

As credit card demand and balances continue to rise, delinquency rates need to be monitored. Across all non-mortgage lending, delinquencies are up from the lows of 2021. The 90+ day non-mortgage balance delinquency rate increased to 0.93 per cent, up from 0.87 percent in Q3 2021. Understanding the average debt and delinquency rates of consumer groups and their trends can aid your lending decisions. 


Do you have further questions about consumer credit trends? Sign up to Attend our Quarterly Credit Trends Webinars and Receive our Latest Economic Insights Reports.

We want to help Canadians live their financial best. For further questions, you can also reach us by contacting your Equifax Account Representative or directly at 1-855-233-9226 and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn


This article is published by Equifax Canada Co.® 2023. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced, copied or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a retrieval system of any nature, without the prior permission of Equifax Canada Co. This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal or business  advice.