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Average U.S. Credit Card Debt

Credit card debt is on the rise. Look into the numbers behind average U.S. credit card debt and how it increases with age.

By Scot Finnie | American Express Credit Intel Freelance Contributor

4 Min Read | January 31, 2020 in Money

 

At-A-Glance

Average U.S. credit card debt ranges from $5,500 to $6,000 per person, depending on whose stats you quote.

Millennials’ average credit card debt is lower than that overall, but increases with age.

Total household debt (including credit cards) rose to a new record in each of the past 20 quarters—that’s five years straight.

What is the average credit card debt in the U.S.? It depends on who you talk to and when you ask—it's a moving target. Here are some recent numbers that we pinned down for the average U.S. credit card debt per person:

  • $5,700, according to the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's 2019 Report on the Consumer Credit Market. That number excludes “private label” store credit cards.1
  • $5,554, according to a TransUnion report.2
  • Nearly $6,200, according to Experian.3

 

Interpreting Average U.S. Credit Card Debt  

What’s simple and clear about average U.S. credit card debt from these numbers is that, in early 2019, its approximate range is from $5,500 to $6,200 per person. If you shift to look at average household credit card debt, where there's a potential for two or more incomes and multiple people spending, estimates rise. One recent analysis pegged household average credit card debt at $8,701 for the third quarter of 2019.

 

It’s also worth noting that not everyone included in those averages is actually paying interest on that debt. That’s because the data is a snapshot in time that includes the people who pay their credit card bills in full by the due date each month, and who therefore don’t pay interest charges.

 

Average Credit Card Debt by Age 

Meanwhile, millennials across the U.S. carry average credit card debt of $4,712, according to Experian.5 Among millennials, however, credit card debt increases sharply with age:

  • The youngest millennials, aged 23, carry an average credit card debt of $2,288.
  • The oldest, at 38, have an average debt of $6,675.

That's considerably higher than the average across all demographics. Generationally speaking, Experian found another notably high average credit card debt number for Generation X (born between baby boomers and millennials): $8,023.

 

Aggregate U.S. Credit Card Debt on the Rise 

Beyond these averages, it’s also clear that total credit card use is on the rise. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported that aggregate credit card debt in the U.S. totaled $868 billion for the quarter ending with June 2019.6 That's up $20 billion over the first quarter of 2019 and almost $40 billion over the second quarter of 2018. Separately, the Federal Reserve Board reported that revolving credit, which is mostly credit card debt, rose 6.3% year over year in the fourth quarter of 2019, when it stood near $1.1 trillion.7

 

Looking at households, the Fed has reported 20 consecutive quarters in which total household debt increased. For the second quarter of 2019, total household debt (including credit cards, home mortgages, home equity loans, student loans, auto loans, and other types of debt) rose from $192 billion to $13.86 trillion.

 

 

U.S. Credit Card Debt Average Interest 

Again, it’s important to note that not all of that $1 trillion in credit card debt is interest-bearing. A recent survey found that 55% of Americans carry at least some credit card balance from month to month, and therefore incur interest-bearing debt.8 Other surveys peg the number lower—the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, for example, found that two out of five Americans (approximately 40%) pay interest on their credit card balances month-to-month.9 The average interest rate for credit card accounts that are assessed interest is slightly over 17%, according to the Fed.10

 

One analysis of 2019 data estimated that households with credit card debt paid an average of $1,162 in interest on that debt last year.11

 

 

The Takeaway

Average credit card debt in the U.S. on a per-person basis is in the neighborhood of $5,500 to $6,200. Aggregate household debt and revolving charge debt—mostly credit cards—rose to a new record in the latter part of 2018 and continued to rise in 2019. It's apparent that U.S. consumers very much like the convenience that credit cards provide. 

Scot Finnie

Scot Finnie is a journalist who covers primarily business and technology. He was Editor-in-Chief of Computerworld for more than a decade.

 

All Credit Intel content is written by freelance authors and commissioned and paid for by American Express. 

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