Hong Kong Gen Z More Active than Millennials in Leveraging Credit Opportunities
- Gen Z consumers showed the greatest appetite for credit, with 19% saying they planned to apply for new credit or refinance existing credit in the year ahead; a similar number (21%) said they did not have sufficient access to credit
- Gen Z in 2021 held slightly fewer credit cards than their Millennial counterparts at the same age in 2016, but tended to spend more on credit cards
- While banks remain the key source for personal loans among Gen Z, more have turned to money lenders to support their personal loan needs
Hong Kong’s Gen Z consumers (born 1995-2010) have become increasingly credit active as they have continued to mature into adulthood, according to a recent study conducted by TransUnion (NYSE: TRU). The global information and insights company and Hong Kong’s leading consumer credit reference agency presented the findings at its recent Hong Kong Financial Services Summit. The study sought to explore credit activities and trends among Gen Z consumers, and to provide insights into how financial institutions can better serve this emerging credit-eligible group.
Globally, Gen Z represents about 30% of the total population. They are also growing fast in terms of economic power, with their income expected to increase five-fold to US$33 trillion by 2030, accounting for over a quarter of global income and surpassing Millennials’ income by 2031. In Hong Kong, there are around 500,000 adult Gen Z consumers aged 18 and older, with an additional 330,000 likely to turn 18 and becoming eligible to apply for credit in the next six years.
“As Gen Z continues to mature into adulthood, there is a need for financial institutions to better understand their unique needs so that they can better serve this emerging group of consumers, and achieve greater financial inclusion,” said Kevin Chen, principal, Financial Services Research and Consulting at TransUnion Asia Pacific. “Gen Z has been shaped by the digital age, shifting financial landscapes, and the global pandemic. They differ from Millennials – the next older generation – in many ways, making it important for financial services providers to understand their nuances.”
Gen Z consumers have a greater appetite for new credit than other generations
The TransUnion study found that among adult Gen Z consumers in Hong Kong aged 18 and older, 71% were credit active in 2021, well over 247,000 people. Their most widely held credit product was credit cards (held by 96% of credit-active Gen Z borrowers), followed by personal loans (12%), revolving lines (11%), loans on cards (5%), and mortgages (4%).
The study also found that Gen Z consumers were looking to open new credit at a higher rate than other generations in Hong Kong. Among Gen Z consumers surveyed in Q1 2023, 19% planned to apply for new credit or to refinance existing credit in the year ahead – an intention shared by just 14% of Millennials (born 1980-1994), 8% of Gen X (born 1965-1979), and 5% of Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964). Despite their credit needs and current levels of participation, 21% of Gen Z believed that they did not have sufficient access to credit.
Gen Z hold slightly fewer credit cards in wallet but tend to spend more
In an effort to understand more about Gen Z, the study further compared their credit participation, utilization and risk to their Millennial counterparts. The comparative analysis was drawn between the two generations at different time periods when they were the same age to allow for like-for-like comparison: Gen Z aged between 22 and 26 in March 2021, and Millennials aged between 22 and 26 in March 2016.
Overall, Gen Z consumers in 2021 tended to be more credit active than their Millennial counterparts in 2016. The comparative analysis showed that there were more credit-active Gen Z consumers as a percentage of total population in 2021 (71%) than there were Millennials in 2016 (67%), presenting an opportunity for lenders to capture the growth potential in the emerging Gen Z credit market.
Across credit products, credit cards were the most widely held among both Gen Z and Millennial consumers, both at 96%. While these two generations were both highly engaged in the credit card market, Gen Z consumers held slightly fewer cards in wallet, with 2.7 cards on average, compared to an average of 2.8 cards among Millennials when they were at the same age. While this difference was very small, it likely reflects the lower levels of demand for new credit cards seen in the early 2020-2021 period of the pandemic.
Gen Z consumers were also more likely to hold credit cards from non-bank issuers, including money lenders and virtual banks, than Millennials at the same age. This shift was likely driven by the emergence of virtual banks starting around 2020. The percentage of Gen Z (17%) holding non-bank credit cards was almost double that of Millennials (9%) at the same age. At the same time, 91% of Millennials held only cards issued by banks in their wallets, compared to 84% of Gen Z consumers who did the same.
When it came to credit card spend, Gen Z consumers generally had higher spend levels than their Millennial counterparts at the same age, potentially reflecting a higher cost of living driven by inflation as well as the shift to online transactions seen during the pandemic. However, despite their higher spend levels, Gen Z consumers had similar average card balances to Millennials’, with Gen Z’s lower revolve rate (meaning the percentage of cardholders not paying their balances in full) likely contributing to keeping balances at a similar level.
More Gen Z turn to money lenders for personal loans
Personal loans were the second most commonly used credit product among Gen Z and Millennials. Gen Z appeared to have greater appetite for new personal loans, with 7% having opened a personal loan between March 2021 and March 2022, higher than their Millennial counterparts’ 5% rate over a similar 12-month period starting March 2016.
Among those with a personal loan, banks remained the key source for personal loans among Gen Z – 56% received at least one personal loan in wallet from a bank, compared with Millennials (70%). Yet, money lenders were increasingly gaining a bigger share in personal loans among Gen Z, with 44% holding personal loans only with non-bank lenders, compared to Millennials (30%) when they were at the same age. However, when looking at the personal loan amounts, it appeared that Gen Z consumers were generally receiving slightly smaller personal loan size than Millennials at the same age, which may be a sign of shift in risk appetite among lenders.
The comparative analysis also looked at the risk profiles of the two generations. It showed that Gen Z consumers generally had a better risk profile than their Millennial counterparts did: 72% of Gen Z were in prime plus or super prime risk tiers, while 65% of Millennials were in the same tiers at the same age.
“There tends to be a misconception that Gen Z consumers fall into less desirable risk categories by default, given that they are new to the credit market and do not yet have much history of positive credit payment. However, data in this study, as well as our previous new-to-credit study, show that these younger consumers are not necessarily risker than others. It’s for this reason that lenders should turn to advanced, reliable data analytics and technologies to help them manage credit risk, while at the same time enabling them to capture younger consumer segments that hold significant potential for the future,” Chen added.
 World Economic Forum, How Gen Z Employment Levels Compare in OECD Countries, 2021
 BofA Global Research, OK Zoomer: Gen Z Primer, December 2020
 Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department, Population by Age, 2021
 TransUnion Consumer Pulse Study Q1 2023
 TransUnion CreditVision® risk score: super prime = AA; prime plus = BB; prime = CC; near prime = DD to HH; subprime = II to JJ