While interest rates remain low, Canadians are still keen to take up available credit.

The number of active credit cards in Canada fell by 800,000 in 2016 according to a study by TransUnion, however average balances on the cards increased.

Total balances increased by 3.3 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2016 compared to a year earlier; totalling $94.2 billion and averaging $4,094 per borrower, up 2.3 per cent.

“The increase in card usage was universal across all consumer credit risk tiers, and as a result, some lenders appear to be increasing credit lines to their customers to capitalize on this loyalty effect,” explained Chris Dias, senior vice president of product innovation and analytics at TransUnion Canada. “We may expect more lenders to evaluate increasing credit lines to cardholders in response to this higher demand.”

The study shows that overall, the consumer credit picture in Canada was sound as 2016 ended with a rise of 2.18 per cent in non-mortgage debt but delinquency rates for non-mortgage credit down 2 per cent.

Delinquencies were higher in Alberta (up 7.5 per cent) and Saskatchewan (3.32 per cent) while other provinces saw decreases, led by a 6.73 per cent drop in Ontario.

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