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Insightful Credit Card Debt Statistics & Facts: The Burden of Plastic Money

Credit Card Debt Statistics - Credit cards in a back pocket

Americans have become increasingly reliant on credit cards to finance their daily expenses, despite the fact that this is one of the most expensive ways to get money. In fact, the Federal Reserve reported late last year that U.S. credit card debt has reached record highs. There are several reasons for this development.

First, the proportion of consumers who have access to payment cards has never been larger. According to Trans Union, nearly 200 million U.S. consumers now have the ability to apply for a credit card, and that number is growing every year.

Second, average US credit card debt has grown, to a great extent due to the 2005 Bankruptcy Protection Act, which made filing for bankruptcy more difficult. As a consequence, many people have started using credit cards as the fastest way to refinance debts or pay bills.

Research has shown Americans are generally satisfied with the economy at the federal level, with reduced unemployment and stock market growth among the biggest positives in their eyes. Because of this, many believe they can better manage their personal debt.

Nevertheless, wages still haven’t caught up with the increased cost of living. American workers’ purchasing power isn’t sufficient to satisfy their needs, which is why they’re spending more than they earn and piling up debt on their credit cards. Although higher spending has a positive impact on the economy, credit card interest rates can be too much of a burden for the average US income. This can reduce our ability to spend and create an overall negative trend.

For all these reasons, we’ve compiled this list of interesting US credit card debt statistics. We hope it gives you insight into the current situation and provides an answer to the question “What is the average credit card debt in 2019?” with respect to demographics, regions, income, and other factors.

Statistics on Credit Card Debt in the U.S.A. (Editor’s Choice)

  • The average household credit card debt in America is $8,390.
  • A typical American has 52% more debt than in the year 2000.
  • Total national credit card debt hit the $1 trillion mark in Q4 2018. 
  • 15% of U.S. households reported spending more than they received in income. 
  • 83% of adult Americans possess at least one credit card.
  • Generation X holds the largest number of credit cards and carries the highest debts.
  • Nearly one in five Americans say that they depend on credit cards to cover basic living expenses.

General Credit Card Debt Stats & Facts

1. The total national credit card debt in the United States now exceeds $1 trillion.

(Federal Reserve)

It stood at $1,055 billion in the last quarter of 2018, with an average annual growth rate of 3.5% since 1997. Consumer debt growth was largest among people with prime credit scores, although both subprime and near-prime borrowers also saw their credit card debts increase.

2. A typical American has four credit cards, and the average account is seven years and two months old.

How much credit card debt does the average American have? Well, the credit card balance of a typical U.S. citizen was approximately $6,028 in the first quarter of 2019. 

(Experian)

3. 83% of adult Americans possess at least one credit card.

(Federal Reserve)

The share of people owning a credit card is higher among those who have larger incomes, are better educated, and are white. 

Percentage of U.S. citizens with at least one credit card. (Federal Reserve)
CharacteristicPercent
Income
Less than $40,00065
$40,000 - $100,00091
Greater than $100,00097
Education
High school degree or less73
Some college or associate degree81
Bachelor's degree or more95
Race / Ethnicity
White87
Black70
Hispanic76
Overall83

4. The average household credit card debt in America is higher than $8,000.

(WalletHub)

According to WalletHub, the average American household had an $8,390 credit card balance as of March 2019. 

5. Credit card statistics highlight how many Americans are in debt. In 2016, 15% of U.S. households reported spending more than they received in income.

(Federal Reserve)

The percentage of individual Americans who spend more than they earn on a monthly basis is much bigger: 43%. Credit cards are the most common means of financing the average family income shortfall.

6. More than half of Americans do not carry a balance on their credit cards.

(Federal Reserve)

According to a survey carried out by Federal Reserve from 2013 to 2016, almost 57% of U.S. consumers use their credit cards for convenience only, without any balance on them.

7. An increasing number of users are signing up for secured credit cards.

(Consumer Financial Protection Bureau)

A secured card is a type of a credit card that requires a cash deposit. People often use secured cards to build their credit history; the higher the deposit, the larger the limit on the credit card. This growth is driven by subprime consumers and people without a credit history. For example, 7% more users applied for secured cards in 2016 than in 2015.

8. Consumers who prefer using credit cards make approximately 25 of their 50 monthly transactions using a credit card.

(Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco) 

Credit card usage statistics show the growing popularity of this payment method. In 2017, 29% of consumers preferred making payments using credit cards. 

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Preferred payment methods, 2017 data (Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco)

9. In 2017, total credit card payments accounted for 55% of the overall value of card payments.

(Federal Reserve)

The amount spent using credit cards was $3.60 trillion, compared with $2.88 trillion for debit cards.

10. The average American credit card debt has grown by 52% since the year 2000.

(ValuePenguin)

The only period with a significant drop in American debt occurred in 2005. This was caused by a huge increase in bankruptcy filings in the United States that year.  

11. The top three credit card issuers in the United States are American Express, Chase, and Citibank.

(The Nilson Report)

Rankings within the credit card industry are based on purchase volume in billions of dollars. Americans have spent $754.92 billion using American Express credit cards, $739.48 billion using Chase cards, and $410.43 billion using Citibank cards. Other top issuers are Bank of America ($360.73 billion), Capital One ($336 billion), and U.S. Bank ($145.69B). 

12. Nearly one in five Americans say they depend on credit cards to cover basic living expenses.

(Forbes, The Motley Fool)

According to a survey of 1,000 American credit card holders, 50% of respondents said they have maxed out their credit cards, while 23% are planning to open an additional credit card account to make ends meet. 

13. According to credit card debt facts from 2017, less than half of U.S. cardholders paid their credit card debts in full on a monthly basis.

(Federal Reserve)

More precisely, 45% paid their credit card balance in its entirety each month, 27% carried a balance regularly, and the same percentage carried a balance at least once during the same year. 

14. 38% of American households have credit-card-related debt.

(National Foundation for Credit Counseling, Creditcards.com)

What percentage of Americans have credit card debt? In 2018, 61% of adults had such a debt in the previous 12 months. Nearly two in five were indebted on a monthly basis. 

15. Americans have increased their credit card balances by $55 billion since 2016.

 (Investopedia)

Credit card balances are growing. If the overall US household debt continues to grow faster than the country’s GDP, it could cause an economic slowdown in the following years.

16. In 2018, revolving credit (which mostly consists of US credit card debt) increased by $11.2 billion.

(Federal Reserve, Fortune)

This increase broke the record set in 2008, just before the global financial crisis, which is also ominously known as the Great Recession.

17. Cardholders have fewer credit cards than before the Great Recession.

(Consumer Financial Protection Bureau)

Although the new account volume is roughly 50% higher than it was immediately after the crisis, it still hasn’t returned to its level prior to the 2007-08 recession. 

18. Credit card delinquency was at its highest in 2009, when it was 6.77%.

(Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Investopedia)

Today it is relatively low and sustainable, at around 2.50%. A credit card loan is considered delinquent if the borrower has missed two consecutive payments and is therefore 60 days late. If this is the case, the issuer applies credit card default rates to the account. 

19. The average credit card interest rate is 19.24% for new accounts and 14.14% for existing accounts.

(WalletHub, Yahoo Finance)

At the time of writing, the average APR (annual percentage rate) is 20.79% for clients with good credit, 14.49% for clients with excellent credit, and 18.47% for business users. It’s estimated that the average credit card payments in interest amount to $1,141 on an annual basis. 

20. Credit card debt at Christmas: In a 2017 post-holiday survey, 25% of U.S. consumers said it would take them more than six months to pay off what they spent on their credit card during the holidays.

(CNBC, MagnifyMoney) 

Nearly half (46%) of respondents said they planned to pay off their credit card debt within a month of the holidays, while 16% said they would need between one and three months. When asked where this holiday debt came from, 68% of shoppers said credit cards were responsible, marking an 8% increase compared to the previous holiday season.

21. In 2018, the average American accumulated $1,230 in debt over the holiday period.

(MagnifyMoney)

This was an increase from $1,054 during the previous year’s holiday season. If a consumer were to make minimum payments of $30 per month at the current average credit card interest rate, it would take them more than five years to repay this holiday debt. As in 2017, 68% of this holiday debt was generated using credit cards.

22. Annual percentage rates (APRs) increased by a full percentage point in 2018.

(MagnifyMoney)

According to estimates, this means Americans will have to pay more than $122 billion in interest in 2019.

23. In 2016, consumers around the world spent more using credit and debit cards then they did in cash for the first time.

 (MarketWatch, Euromonitor International)

During that year, consumers worldwide spent about $23 trillion using payment cards and $22.6 trillion using cash. 

Credit Card Debt Demographics

24. When it comes to average credit card debt by age, the number is highest among people aged 45 to 54.

(TheStreet)

People in this age group owe $9,096 on average. They are followed by Americans approaching their peak earning years and those aged between 55 and 64, with both groups owing more than $8,000 on average. Retired Americans have a median credit card debt of over $6,000.

25. Around 87% of adult consumers older than 65 have a credit card.

(Quartz, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston)

They are followed by consumers aged between 55 and 64 (78.1%), while 70.5% of users aged 45-54 use plastic money. The younger age groups show slightly less of an inclination to opt for credit: The 35 to 44 and 25 to 34 demographics sit somewhere around 69%, while less than 50% of consumers younger than 25 are credit card owners. 

The share of people who have a credit card by age. (Quartz)

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26. Generation X holds the largest number of credit cards and carries the highest debts.

(Gallup)

Traditionalists (people aged between 75 and 80) are the least indebted among all age groups. The percentage of Americans with credit card debt is lowest among millennials, which is partly due to the Credit Card Act of 2009. The statute made it harder for consumers under the age of 21 to get a credit card. 

27. 39% of U.S. adults use their credit card as a purchase method because of the points or rewards they can earn.

(National Foundation for Credit Counseling)

Older Americans are more likely than younger ones to use credit cards for the purpose of earning points or rewards (43% vs. 31%). 

28. Younger Americans are more likely than older ones to have committed some kind of credit card blunder.

(National Foundation for Credit Counseling)

According to the 2017 Consumer Financial Literacy Survey by NFCC, younger adults are more likely to be rejected for a new credit card (11% vs. 6% during the 12 months prior to publishing the survey), to be late in making a credit card payment (11% vs. 5%), to miss a payment (12% vs. 4%), or make a payment that was less than the minimum required (13% vs. 3%). 

29. Access to credit cards is not evenly spread across the United States.

(Federal Reserve)

For example, in 2013, only 20% of Caucasian Americans did not have at least one credit card, compared with 30% of Latinos and 47% of African Americans. 

30. Minority communities in the U.S. generally have lower credit scores, but they carry less credit card debt.

(Dēmos, Creditcards.com)

In 2013, Caucasian Americans had an average balance of around $7,000 on their credit cards, while Latinos and African Americans had $6,066 and $5,784 respectively. The average African American citizen spent $368 monthly on all credit cards, while the average Latino spent $483 per month. The average credit card APR is higher for African Americans and Latinos. 

Average debt and APR overview by ethnicity. (Dēmos)
WhiteAfrican AmericanLatino
Average Credit Card Debt$7,315$5,784$6,066
Total Monthly Payment on all Cards$609$368$483
Average Annual Percentage Rate of Card with the Highest Balance15.8%17.7%17.9%

31. On average, men carry significantly more debt on their credit cards than women.

(ValuePenguin)

Female householders generally have 22% less credit card debt than their male counterparts. 

32. Men are more likely to never carry a balance on their credit cards and pay off debt each month.

(BMO Harris Bank)

According to a survey by BMO Harris Bank, 14% of men and 10% of women say they pay off their credit cards every month. 

33. Women are generally more concerned than men about paying off their credit card debt.

(BMO Harris Bank)

This BMO Harris Bank survey suggests 35% of females see their credit card debt as a major financial concern, compared to only 22% of men. 

34. There are more than twice as many college students who use debit cards than those who use credit cards.

(Nasdaq)

Among college students credit card debt statistics show that the average balance was around $499 according to the latest research, which is from 2013. 

US Credit Card Debt by Income

35. Americans who earn less than $25,000 have an average debt of $3,000, while those with the highest credit score (with an income over $160,000) owe $11,200 on average.

(Federal Reserve, Lexington Law)

In other words, people with a yearly salary of up to $24,999 have a credit card debt ranging from 12% to 100% of their income. For Americans who earn between $115,000 and $159,999, this percentage ranges from 7.2% to 5.2%. 

36. About 29% of credit card users usually make minimum or low debt payments on a monthly basis.

(National Bureau of Economic Research)

People with incomes over $150,000 are the most likely to pay their credit card balance in full, but they still make minimum or low payments 38% of the time. Those who earn less than $50,000 annually make low payments 50% of the time. 

37. There were around 364 million open credit card accounts in the United States as of December 2017.

(American Bankers Association)

This was a 4.1% increase from the previous year. Super prime clients held 185 million accounts, prime clients had 104 million accounts, while subprime users had 75 million. 

38. The average credit score in the United States is 704.

(CNBC)

According to FICO, a renowned data analytics company which offers credit scores ranging from 300 to 850, Americans have a sustainable credit score. The credit score has an influence on determining the interest rate for credit cards, mortgages, and loans. 

39. In 2017, the average VantageScore was 675.

(Experian, Credit.com)

VantageScore is a product of collaboration between the major U.S. credit reporting agencies: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. The number is obtained using the same criteria as for a FICO credit score. This involves analyzing the consumer’s payment history, length of credit, types of credit, credit usage, and recent inquiries. 

In contrast to FICO credit score, which requires at least six months of credit history, VantageScore requires only a month of history and one account open within the past two years. Therefore, the latter is suitable for millions of U.S. consumers who want to prove their trustworthiness before FICO has enough data to issue them a credit score. 

Just like FICO, VantageScore credit scores range from 300 to 850. 

40. Here’s another illustration of the average household income in the States: The percentage of consumers with an excellent credit score (between 800-850) is 20.7%.

(The Motley Fool)

The majority of Americans have good to excellent credit scores. The percentage of the population with credit scores below 600 has dropped from more than 25% in 2009 to less than 20% today. 

41. U.S. consumers are relatively comfortable when it comes to servicing their debts in 2019.

(Federal Reserve Bank of New York) 

According to a survey carried out by the U.S. Federal Reserve, there’s only a 10.72% chance that consumers will miss a loan payment in the next three months. This is the lowest result since the beginning of the survey, back in 2013. 

Credit Card Debt by U.S. State

42. Alaska is the US state with the highest average amount of credit card debt: $7,726 in the first quarter of 2019.

(Experian)

It’s followed by New Jersey ($6,881), Connecticut ($6,876), the District of Columbia ($6,782), and Virginia ($6,773).

43. Iowa has the lowest average credit card debt among U.S. states ($4,622).

(Experian)

According to data from Q1 2019, Iowa is followed by Wisconsin ($4,810), Kentucky ($5,017), South Dakota ($5,023), and Idaho ($5,027). 

44. Currently, the U.S. state with the highest credit card delinquency rate is Mississippi (3.14%).

(Lexington Law, TransUnion)

Mississippi is followed by Louisiana (2.46%), Arkansas (2.41%), Georgia (2.37%), and West Virginia (2.28). These states have a 16% higher delinquency rate than the national average.

45. The U.S. states with the lowest credit card delinquency rates are over 64% lower than the national average.

(Lexington Law, TransUnion)

The state with the lowest credit card delinquency rate is Wisconsin (1.11%), followed by Washington (1.12%), Utah (1.14%), Minnesota (1.15%), and Montana (1.19%). 

Make Good on Debts

As you can see, American credit card debt statistics indicate some worrying trends. For the wellbeing of your household, you should always spend responsibly and keep a record of the debts on each of your credit cards. Put everything on paper and create a repayment plan that’s realistic for your budget. This will help you decide whether to repay the debt with the highest balance or with the highest interest rate first. And, most importantly, try to pay your debts on time, both to improve your credit history and reduce the interest you end up paying.

Sources:

American Bankers Association

BMO Harris Bank

CNBC

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Credit.com

Creditcards.com

Dēmos

Euromonitor International

Experian

Federal Reserve

Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Forbes

Fortune

Gallup

Investopedia

Lexington Law

MagnifyMoney

MarketWatch

Nasdaq

National Bureau of Economic Research

National Foundation for Credit Counseling

Quartz

The Motley Fool

The Nilson Report

TheStreet

TransUnion

ValuePenguin

WalletHub

Yahoo Finance

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