Published in: Research | July 16, 2020
What's the average credit card debt per person? What's the total credit card debt in the U.S.? How do debt figures break down by age? Are millennials borrowing as much as we think they are?
We looked at the best and most recent data from government and institutional sources -- including the Federal Reserve, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and Experian -- to answer your most pressing questions on credit card debt.
According to Experian, the average credit card balance in the United States reached $6,194 in the second quarter of 2019, the most recent period for which data is available.
However, the average doesn't tell the whole story. Approximately 52% of Americans have credit card balances of $2,500 or less.
Alaskan consumers have the highest credit card debt, with an average of $8,026. New Jersey residents are second, with an average credit card balance of $7,084.
Iowa consumers have the lowest credit card debt, with an average balance of $4,744, followed by Wisconsin with an average of $4,908.
|Credit card balance in 2019||Percentage of U.S. credit card holders|
|$2,500 or less||52.1%|
|$50,000 or more||1.1%|
The highest credit card balances are carried by consumers with credit scores in the 670–739 range, which is typically considered to be average credit.
The lowest credit card balances are carried by consumers with poor credit scores, which makes sense because of their limited access to credit.
Consumers with top-tier credit scores also carry below-average credit card balances.
|Credit score range||Average credit card debt|
Total credit card debt increases over time until people reach the 50–59 age group. It then decreases steadily in the latter half of consumers' lives, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
|Age group||Total credit card debt|
|70 and older||$116.6 billion|
The average credit card balance hits a peak of $7,100 for households aged 45–54 and declines steadily after that, according to the Federal Reserve Board's 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances.
The fact that seniors' credit card debt accounts for a relatively large portion of their total debt is explained by a reduction in other kinds of debt, such as mortgages and auto loans.
Looking at credit card debt by household education level, we find that the percentage of families holding credit card debt generally increases with education, though it drops off among Americans who have a college degree.
|Education level of head of household||% Holding credit card debt||Average credit card debt|
|No high school diploma||35.2%||$3,800|
|High school diploma||44.3%||$4,600|
When looking at the average amount of credit card debt per household by education level, the trend changes a bit. Federal Reserve Board data shows that households where the head has no high school diploma carry $3,800 in debt on average, and those with a college degree carry more than twice as much at $8,200.
When examining debt by occupational status, we find that those "working for someone else" were most likely to carry credit card debt at 50.4%, compared to 46.1% of those who were self-employed and 32.7% for retirees.
However, self-employed people had the highest average credit card balance at $8,000, compared to $5,700 for those working for someone else and $4,600 for retirees. The high credit card balance for self-employed individuals could be due to an overlap of business and personal expenses on the same credit card.
When it comes to credit card balances by race, non-Hispanic whites are at the bottom of the range, with 42.1% of families carrying a balance, according to Federal Reserve Board data. Hispanic and Latino families are at the top of the range at 49.6%. In the middle are African American families at 47.8% and "other" or "multiple-race" Americans at 44.1%.
Despite having the lowest percentage of cardholders who carry a balance, white, non-Hispanic families had the highest average credit card debt at $6,500, followed by other/multiple-race families at $5,700, and African American and Hispanic/Latino families at $3,800.
|Race||% With credit card debt||Average credit card debt|
When it comes to credit card usage by race, non-Hispanic whites are at the bottom of the range, with 42.1% of families carrying a balance, shows Federal Reserve Board data. Hispanic and Latino families are at the top of the range at 49.6%. In the middle are African American families at 47.8% and "other" or "multiple-race" Americans at 44.1%.
Despite having the lowest credit card usage rate, white, non-Hispanic families had the highest average credit card debt at $6,500, followed by other/multiple-race families at $5,700 and African American and Hispanic/Latino families at $3,800.
Total credit card balances in the United States are $893 billion as of the first quarter of 2020, according to the New York Federal Reserve. This has increased considerably over the past few years, but declined a bit in early 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
The average consumer with credit cards has four of them, with a combined limit of $31,015, according to Experian.
61% of Americans have at least one credit card.
Consumers with higher credit scores tend to have more credit cards. FICO says the average consumer with a score of 800 or higher has 10 open revolving credit accounts.
Americans have more than half a billion credit cards -- 511.4 million as of the first quarter of 2020. That's 95 million more credit cards than they had in 2015.
|Year||Number of credit card accounts|
According to the New York Federal Reserve Consumer Credit Panel and Equifax data, Americans have a total of $3.93 trillion in credit limits as of the first quarter of 2020.
As mentioned in the last section, there is a total of $893 billion in credit card debt in the United States, which translates to approximately 23% of the total credit limit.
Over the 10-year period ending April 2019, the number of credit cards originated per month climbed from 3.68 million to 5.89 million, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
The number of new credit cards originated peaked in July 2016 at 6.86 million.
The volume of new credit cards originated varies considerably by state. Minnesota, Rhode Island, Wyoming, and Delaware all had year-over-year origination volume increases of 25% or more, while Utah, Tennessee, and Vermont had originations fall by 25% or greater as of April 2019.
The average American could save $88 per month if their credit card company agrees to waive interest on their credit card debt, according to The Ascent's calculations.
Americans have actually become less worried about their credit card debt during the pandemic. In a survey on financial priorities during COVID-19 by The Ascent, fewer than 10% of respondents said their credit card debt was a top financial priority, compared with 14.8% before the pandemic. Employment and general financial survival have increased in priority. The survey of more than 1,500 Americans was conducted on April 3, 2020.
6.1% of Americans planned to use their stimulus check money for the specific purpose of paying off credit card debt.
Approximately 9.1% of all credit card balances in the United States were 90 days or more delinquent as of the first quarter of 2020.
The lowest recorded credit card delinquency rate was 7.1% in the third quarter of 2016 and the highest was 13.7% in the second quarter of 2010 in the wake of the Great Recession.
The average credit card interest rate in the U.S. is 14.52% as of May 2020. However, this includes both interest-charging accounts and accounts that are not assessed interest (promotional 0% APR offers, for example).
If we just consider accounts that are assessed interest, the average interest rate is 15.78%, according to the Federal Reserve.
Credit card interest rates are directly tied to the federal funds rate, so they have fallen since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
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