WASHINGTON — Consumers increased their borrowing in January, especially relying on credit cards to finance their purchases.

The Federal Reserve reported Friday that consumer credit increased at an annual rate of 3.3 percent in January. That was up from a 1.8 percent growth rate in December and marked the fastest pace since November.

The pickup in January pushed up total consumer debt by $6.9 billion to $2.52 trillion. That was on target with economists' expectations.

The increase in borrowing was led by heavier use of revolving credit, primarily credit cards. Demand for revolving credit rose at a 7 percent pace in January. That was up from a 2.8 percent growth rate in December.

Demand for nonrevolving credit used to finance cars, vacations, education and other things, rose at an annual rate of 1.1 percent for the second month in a row.

Consumers have been moving to put more of their purchases on their credit cards as banks have tightened up on their lending standards for home equity loans in response to the deepening credit crisis.

The Fed's measure of consumer borrowing does not include any debt secured by real estate such as mortgage or home equity loans.