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Consumers can expect a spike in lending and greater access to credit in the first half of 2021, TransUnion predicts

Consumer credit lending is expected to rebound to pre-pandemic levels in the first half of 2021.

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Consumers might be able to anticipate having more access to credit cards and personal loans through the first half of 2021 than they did amid the onset of the pandemic, according to TransUnion's annual consumer credit forecast released today.

The dramatic slowdown of lending that we saw in the second quarter of 2020 is expected to rebound in Q2 2021, the credit bureau found, with credit card and personal loan volumes expected to rise at the greatest rate.

For consumers who may need access to credit in the new year, this means that they can hopefully fund a big-ticket item or get a personal loan at a pretty low interest rate, says Matt Komos, VP of research and consulting at TransUnion.

"It's a story of not just the rebound we expected of credit card and personal loans, but [the rebound] is going to sustain," Komos tells CNBC Select, indicating that TransUnion expects lending to be at pre-pandemic levels in the first half of 2021.

Here's why that's good and bad news — and what, as a consumer, you should be on the lookout for in the new year.

The good and bad news

TransUnion's forecast that banks will have more confidence lending to consumers and will loosen their requirements is certainly positive news for those needing credit. Yet, it relies on the expectation of improved employment and a continued economic recovery as the pandemic hopefully winds down.

"The re-opening of America and the expected addition of more jobs and increased wages will make the greatest impact on how consumers are able to manage their debts in 2021," Komos says in the company's press release.

By the second quarter of 2021, consumers will have had a year of living in this pandemic. Those who maintained employment are likely more comfortable (and looking forward to) taking on credit, so this is good news.

Many others, however, could be in an even tighter financial situation in Q2 2021, and though credit could help them make ends meet, they may worry about defaulting or getting even further behind.

"It's 'a tale of two cites,'" Komos says. "Some consumers are doing OK, but the reality is that there are consumers we know are still struggling. There is some uncertainty ahead still, and we have to be cognizant of that as well."

'Keep an eye on what's happening in the market'

Whether you are in a stable financial situation as we head into 2021, or if you are struggling, it's important to know what credit availability looks like in case you need a loan or want a new credit card.

A good indication that lenders are opening up again is if you see increased loan offers or increased marketing from lenders. If you were thinking of applying for credit in the new year, take notice of these offers and also make sure you are tracking your credit in the meantime. Lenders check your credit report when you apply for a new credit card or loan, so know first where you stand.

Consider signing up for a credit monitoring service that keeps you updated on your credit in real time and alerts you of any changes. CNBC Select ranked the best credit monitoring services and consumers feeling cash strapped can can get their credit report tracked for free with the below two services that made our list:

  1. CreditWise® from Capital One
  2. Experian free credit monitoring

CreditWise® from Capital One

Information about CreditWise has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the company prior to publication.
  • Cost

    Free

  • Credit bureaus monitored

    TransUnion and Experian

  • Credit scoring model used

    VantageScore

  • Dark web scan

    Yes

  • Identity insurance

    No

Terms apply.

Experian Dark Web Scan + Credit Monitoring

On Experian's secure site
  • Cost

    Free

  • Credit bureaus monitored

    Experian

  • Credit scoring model used

    FICO®

  • Dark web scan

    Yes, one-time only

  • Identity insurance

    No

Terms apply.

Bottom line

TransUnion's forecast that lending will pick up again through the first half of 2021 is a promising sign of things somewhat going back to normal, especially if the economy and employment continue to improve.

As we enter into a new year, consider what your financial goals are for 2021 and how new credit plays into that, whether it's applying for another rewards credit card or a personal loan you've been needing.

Learn more: Financial experts weigh in on 4 smart money moves to make before the end of the year

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.