Peter Newland, an economist at Barclays Research, said that modest growth and a slight easing in credit standards helped boost credit card borrowing slightly last year.
Paul Edelstein, an economist at Global Insight, said consumers seem willing to take on more debt, but slow wage growth and high unemployment should keep many household budgets tight.
The Federal Reserve's borrowing report covers auto loans, student loans and credit cards. It excludes mortgages, home equity loans and other loans tied to real estate.
The economy has been showing signs of improvement.
Consumers boosted their spending in November, helped by lower gas prices and solid job growth that carried over into December. Employers added 155,000 jobs in December and 161,000 in November.
Steady hiring may have encouraged consumers to keep borrowing and spending, despite tense negotiations to resolve the fiscal cliff.
Still, some analysts expect borrowing and spending may have slowed in December as those budget talks in Washington intensified. Congress and the White House didn't reach a deal to avert sharp tax increases until Jan. 1. And they delayed tougher decisions about spending cuts for another two months.
Consumer confidence fell in both November and December, which may slow spending in December. Consumer spending drives roughly 70 percent of economic activity.