US consumer borrowing increased in April by less than forecast as credit-card balances declined for the first time in three years.

Total credit rose $6.4 billion after a downwardly revised $1.1 billion decrease in March, according to Federal Reserve data released Friday. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a $10 billion increase. The figures aren’t adjusted for inflation.

Revolving credit, which includes credit cards, fell $462 million. Non-revolving credit, such as loans for vehicle purchases and school tuition, increased $6.9 billion, the most since June 2023. Auto sales picked up in the month.

The drop in revolving credit suggests households are trying to keep their card balances in check against the backdrop of punishing interest rates. For some consumers who have whittled away their pent-up savings accumulated during the pandemic, they’re turning to credit cards and other payment methods to keep up.

A blog last month from economists at the St. Louis Fed noted that credit card delinquency rates are returning to historically more normal levels after pandemic-related government assistance programs pushed them to unusually low numbers.

Separate data from the New York Fed indicated that 3.2% of outstanding debt was in some stage of delinquency. While 1.5 percentage points lower than the fourth quarter of 2019, delinquency transition rates increased for all product types, according to the Fed.

That may explain a recent pullback in consumer spending. Household outlays, adjusted for inflation, fell 0.1% in April as purchases of goods fell and spending on services moderated.

Written by: @Bloomberg