Published in: Credit Cards | Nov. 20, 2018

Here's the Average American's Credit Card Debt -- and How to Get Yours Under Control

According to Experian's latest State of Credit report, the average U.S. consumer holds about two bank-issued credit cards and carries a total balance of $5,551. That's a lot of money, especially if you're paying interest of 15% to 20%.

Here's a snapshot of Americans' credit card debt, along with some tips on how to get your own debt under control.

Five credit cards, fanned out

Image source: Getty Images.

The average American's credit card debt

The average American's total credit card balance of $5,551 represents 30% of their total available credit limits.

However, this doesn't tell the whole story, as there is a big range of indebtedness, and the average includes consumers who don't owe anything at all -- and there are a lot of them. According to a separate study from ValuePenguin (which found a similar average credit card debt of $5,700 per household), only 38.1% of all American households carry any credit card debt at all. This implies that the average household that carries a balance owes a whopping $16,048.

Furthermore, there is significant variation among different generations and regions. The Experian report found that baby boomers and generation X-ers carry more than twice the credit card debt of millennials. However, the younger generations use a greater percentage of their available credit than older Americans. In fact, generation-X or younger Americans use about 36% of their available credit on average -- well over the 30% maximum recommended by most experts.

Generation

Average Balance

Credit Utilization

Number of Credit Cards

Silent Generation (born 1925-1945)

$3,780

16%

1.91

Baby boomers (born 1946-1964)

$6,889

29%

2.93

Generation X (born in mid-1960s through early 1980s)

$6,886

37%

2.56

Millennials (born in 1980s through mid- 1990s)

$3,542

36%

2.02

Generation Z (born in mid-1990s or later)

$1,682

36%

1.29

Data Source: Experian. The generational timeline is approximate. There are no set-in-stone cutoff points that define each generation.

In addition, credit card debt varies widely by geographic location. According to an analysis by CreditCards.com, average credit card indebtedness ranges from a low of $4,410 in Iowa to a maximum of $7,552 in Alaska. 

How much credit card debt is too much?

There's no one-size-fits-all method of determining how much credit card debt is too much. Using a credit card can be worthwhile if the purchase will more than make up for the interest you pay -- for example, if it helps you pay off an even higher-interest debt. The definition of too much credit card debt depends on you, your income, and your comfort level with debt.

That said, in most cases, any high-interest credit card debt is too much.

What you can do to correct the problem

If you only make the minimum payments, it can take many years to get rid of credit card debt. So the obvious solution is to pay down your principle as quickly as possible. A lower balances mean less interest will be accumulating, and more of your future payments will be applied to principal, not interest.

If you're having trouble finding extra money to put toward your credit card debt, look into balance transfer credit cards. By transferring your balances at 0% interest, every penny you pay will go toward reducing your principle -- not toward lining your credit card company's pockets.

The bottom line on credit card debt

The average American consumer owes $5,551 on their credit cards, and if you ask me, that's $5,551 too much. One of the smartest personal-finance decisions you can make in 2017 is to aggressively pay down your credit card debt, so make a plan and stick with it. 

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