Updated December 13, 2018

Shocking Facts about Average Credit Card Debt


The average credit card debt in America is $5,331 per person, but there's more to this figure than meets the eye. We break it down in shocking detail.

We love our credit cards in America. But unfortunately, credit card debt is a major problem.

Facts and Figures at a Glance

Average credit card debt statistics you should not ignore:

  • The average credit card debt is $5,331.
  • 55% of credit card users don't always pay in full.
  • 83% of adults have at least one credit card.
  • The average number of credit cards per person is 3.1.
  • The current outstanding revolving debt in the U.S. is $1.04 trillion.
  • The average APR on credit card accounts assessed interest is 16.46%.
  • Baby Boomers and Generation X have the most debt.

Credit cards have simplified our lives and helped us reach personal goals. But their overuse has also contributed to an ever-growing debt problem.

Read on for the shocking facts you need to know.

Being able to open multiple credit cards easily and have credit at your fingertips means that many Americans can spend more, but it also means that not paying off bills in full each month means that debts start to build up.

About 77% of American households have debt of some kind. And the average credit card debt is $5,331.

Credit Card Debt in the United States

Credit card debt is revolving debt, which means that it's an open-ended line of credit. You can keep borrowing up to the amount of your credit limit as long as you keep paying your bill.

Revolving debt is different from non-revolving debt (also called installment debt), which includes home, car, and student loans. Non-revolving debt means that there is a fixed amount borrowed and a pre-set plan to pay off the loan every month.

Revolving debt can be very easily abused because you can carry a balance from month to month, and you just need to pay the minimum to keep going. This makes it easy for people to buy things they can't actually afford.

The latest Consumer Credit release from the Federal Reserve (December 2018) showed that credit card debt has reached a record high. The current total consumer debt in the U.S. is $3.96 trillion, with outstanding revolving debt being $1.04 trillion. This is a $182 billion increase from 2013, just 5 years ago.

YearOutstanding Revolving Debt (in billions)
2013857.7
2014891.5
2015937.9
2016992.4
20171,024.0
20181,037.4

U.S. Credit Card Usage

Credit card usage can be broken down into three main types:

  1. Transactors (30.4%): They use cards for convenience and pay off their balance in full each month. They are not in any debt and owe no interest.
  2. Revolvers (43.8%): They carry a credit card balance from month to month and thus accumulate interest and debt over time.
  3. Dormants (25.8%): They have a credit card, but don't actively use it.

According to the Federal Reserve's 2017 report on the economic well-being of U.S. households, 45% pay off their balance in full in each month. Out of the cardholders who don't always pay in full, about half always carry a balance.

Always pay in full each month45%
Carry a balance most of the time27%
Carry a balance some of the time21%
Carried a balance once in the past year6%

Things are looking up somewhat, though. In recent years, the average credit card debt has dropped by 3%. The Federal Reserve Bureau's Report on Changes in Family Finances from 2013 - 2016 shows that the average credit card debt has dropped from $5,900 to $5,700. Our estimates show that the average debt is even lower by the end of 2016, at $5,331.

While the average plastic debt for families has dropped, the percentage of families with debt have actually increased. 43.9% of families in 2016 have credit card debt (as opposed to 38.1% in 2013). This suggests that more people are having trouble paying off their balance, but are keeping their debt levels lower.

Best and Worst States for Credit Card Debt

Based on Experian's 2017 State of Credit, here are the top 5 and bottom 5 average credit card debt by state:

Top 5:

  • Alaska: $8,515
  • Connecticut: $7,258
  • Virginia: $7,161
  • New Jersey: $7,151
  • Maryland: $7,043

Bottom 5:

  • West Virginia: $5,547
  • North Dakota: $5,511
  • Mississippi: $5,421
  • Wisconsin: $5,363
  • Iowa: $5,155

Credit Card Debt by Generation

Data from a 2017 study shows that Generation X and Baby Boomers have the highest credit card debt at an average of $7,750 and $7,550 per person.

It's not surprising when you consider that Baby Boomers are largely responsible for the growth of the U.S. economy and consumerist culture. They also average the highest number of credit cards at 3.5 cards per person.

However, the younger generations (X, Y, and Z) have the highest amount of revolving credit card usage. 36-37% keep a balance on their card, as opposed to 29% of the Baby Boomers and only 16% for the Silent Generation (the oldest generation).

GenerationAgeDebt
Silent Generation (Traditionalists)age 72+$4,613
Baby Boomersage 54-72$7,550
Generation Xage 38-53$7,750
Generation Y (Millennials)age 24-38$4,315
Generation Z (iGeneration)age 23 & under$2,047

Credit Card Debt by Race

Per the Federal Reserve's latest in-depth data on debt, those who identified themselves as white carried the highest amount of credit card debt at $6,500. Blacks and Hispanics carried the least amount at $3,800.

Here's how the races stack up from the highest debt to lowest:

RaceDebt% with Debt
White $6,50042.1%
Black$3,80047.8%
Hispanic$3,80049.6%
Other$5,70044.1%

Credit Card Debt by Income

The same study also showed that making more money doesn't mean less debt. The opposite is true, actually. Households with higher income also carry a higher credit card balance. This is most likely because high earners have more spending power and access to higher credit limits.

The Federal Reserve found that just 29% of households in the lowest quintile have credit card debt compared with over 50% of households with income in the 40-90% percentile. And 34% of those in the highest income bracket (90-100% percentile) carry debt.

However, note that the percentage of debt as income increases is lower. For those with income in the lowest quintile, their debt is 15% of their annual income. For the highest earners, their debt is only 2.4%.

Percentile of incomeAverage incomeAverage Debt% with Debt
Lowest 20$14,400$2,10029.0%
20 - 39.9$31,800$3,80041.7%
40 - 59.9$53,400$4,40053.0%
60 - 79.9$87,400$6,80052.8%
80 - 80.9$138,700$7,80051.5%
90 - 100$514,700$12,50034.4%

Credit Card Debt by Household Net Worth

The more net worth a household has, the more debt they carry. Even though only 20% of those in the highest net worth percentile has credit card debt, they carry the most.

Percentile of Net WorthDebt% with Debt
Lowest 25th$4,00040.0%
25 - 49.9$5,00052.1%
50 - 74.9$6,20053.1%
75 - 89.9$7,40037.5%
90 - 100$11,20019.8%

Credit Card Debt by Employment

The same Federal Reserve report found that households where the head is self-employed carry the highest credit card debt, while retired folks have the least. While over 50% of employed people have debt, and only 29% of those not working have debt, they carry about the same amount.

Job StatusAverage Debt% with Debt
Employed$5,70050.4%
Self Employed$8,00046.1%
Retired$4,60032.7%
Not working$5,60028.9%

Credit Card Debt by Education

Interestingly, the same study showed a direct correlation between debt and education level. The higher the education level, the more likely the person is to have higher credit card debt. Again, this could be because those with a higher education earn more income and thus have greater spending power.

Those with college degrees have an average of $8,200 in debt while those who did not graduate high school have an average of just $3,800.

DegreeAverage Debt% with Debt
No high school diploma$3,80035.2%
High school graduate only$4,60044.3%
Some college, no degree$4,70050.8%
College Degree$8,20041.3%

So What Can You Do About Your Credit Card Debt?

Although consumer credit card debt has decreased in recent years, it's still a major problem for a lot of Americans. But don't feel too discouraged because, as you can see from this article, you're not alone.

The road to paying off credit card debt starts with facing reality. You need a solid plan and a lot of self-discipline. Staring at those numbers can be intimidating, but you're capable of getting out of debt as long as you're committed.

To break it down for you in clear, actionable steps, check out our beginner's guide to paying off debt fast. You'll find digestible steps that are easy to follow. It's never too late to get on the road to financial freedom.

Sources and Additional References

More from CreditDonkey:


Credit Card Debt Statistics


Credit Score Statistics


Credit Card Fraud Statistics

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