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Credit Card Facts & Statistics – Debt, Spending & More [2024]

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Alex Miller
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Alex Miller

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Founder and CEO of Upgraded Points, Alex is a leader in the industry and has earned and redeemed millions of points and miles. He frequently discusses the award travel industry with CNBC, Fox Business...
Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
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Keri Stooksbury

Editor-in-Chief

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With years of experience in corporate marketing and as the executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar, Keri is now editor-in-chief at UP, overseeing daily content operations and r...

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It may seem like every other piece of mail you get is a “You’re approved!” letter from a credit card company or the option to finance anything, which is just so tempting. Want that new Peloton bike? Well, it could be yours for just $39 a month! While this may seem like a good deal, it’s easy to find yourself spending too much, sinking into a bit of debt (or a lot), and having way too many credit cards.

Spending on credit cards is easy by design. All it takes is a swipe, and that shiny new toy is yours. If this sounds all too relatable, you’re not alone. During the fourth quarter of 2023, credit card balances in the U.S. increased by $50 billion and now stand at $1.13 trillion, according to the “Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit,”¹ released by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

As of Q3 2023, the average American carries $6,501 in credit card debt, an increase of 17% from Q3 2022, according to data from Experian’s “Average Credit Card Debt” report.² Keep reading to find out more credit card facts and statistics, including credit card spending statistics, average credit card debt, spending habits when it comes to cash vs. credit cards, what banks look at when issuing credit cards, how to get a credit card, and frequently asked questions.

Keep reading to find out more credit card facts and statistics, including credit card spending statistics, average credit card debt, spending habits when it comes to cash vs. credit cards, what banks look at when issuing credit cards, how to get a credit card, and frequently asked questions.

13 Quick Credit Facts and Statistics

  1. The average number of credit cards per person in the U.S. is 3.9.³ 
  2. Gen Z holds the lowest average number of credit cards at 2.³
  3. Adults with an income under $100,000 who have credit cards are more likely to use them to carry balances from month to month.⁴
  4. 87% of white adults, 92% of Asian adults, 71% of Black adults, and 73% of Hispanic adults have credit cards.⁴
  5. There are credit card issuers and credit card networks. A credit card issuer is a financial institution that gives you a credit card. A credit card network is a company that provides a communication system between a merchant and an issuer.
  6. Credit card networks include Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover.
  7. The 8 largest credit card issuers generated $4.642 trillion in purchase volume in 2023. They accounted for 79.76% of the industry total.⁵
  8. Studies show that shoppers with credit cards are willing to spend more on items, check out with bigger baskets, and focus on and remember more product benefits rather than costs.⁶ 
  9. The average credit card debt per household is $10,848.⁷
  10. Credit card debt was the most widely held type of debt (number of accounts) as of 2023.⁸
  11. Americans in the $90,000 to $100,000 income range had an average credit card debt of $11,210.⁸
  12. Credit cards as a form of payment have been increasing, from 27% of payments in 2020 to 31% of payments in 2022.⁹
  13. Credit cards are the most frequently used form of online payment, accounting for a 54% share of payments.¹⁰

U.S. Credit Card Statistics by Generation, Income, and Ethnicity

1. The average American holds 3.9 active credit cards.

According to Experian, U.S. consumers, on average, carry fewer cards today than they did in 2017 (an average of 4.2 active credit cards). As of Q3 2023, the average number of credit cards held is 3.9.³

2. Gen Z holds the lowest average number of credit cards. 

Baby boomers and Generation X hold the highest average number of credit cards at 4.3, and Gen Z holds the lowest average number of credit cards at 2.³

3. Adults with an income under $100,000 who have credit cards are more likely to use them to carry balances from month to month. 

When you break down credit card ownership by income, the results are interesting. Most people with an income of over $100,000 have a credit card. Adults with an income under $100,000 who have credit cards are more likely to use them to carry balances from month to month.³

4. 87% of white adults, 92% of Asian adults, 71% of Black adults, and 73% of Hispanic adults have credit cards.

Credit card usage also varies by race and ethnicity. 87% of white adults have a credit card, and 42% of those credit card users have carried over a balance at least once in the past year. Over 90% of Asian adults have a credit card, but just 2.7 in 10 Asian adults have carried a balance at least once in the past year. Meanwhile, Black and Hispanic adults were more likely to carry balances on their credit cards than other racial or ethnic groups. Of the 71% of Black adults holding credit cards, over 70% have carried a balance at least once in the past year. 73% of Hispanic adults hold credit cards, and 62% have carried a balance at least once in the last year.³

Credit Card Statistics by Ethnicity
Image Credit: Upgraded Points

You also see a slight difference in credit card debt by race. White cardholders have $7,942 in credit card debt, Asian cardholders carry $7,660 in credit card debt, Hispanic cardholders have $6,849, and Black cardholders have $6,172 in credit card debt.

Hot Tip:

For more information, check out our article on credit card ownership stats by income, education, credit score, and more.

The Difference Between a Credit Card Issuer and a Network

5. What is the difference between a credit card issuer and a credit card network?

While there are many credit card issuers, there are only a select few credit card networks. So, what exactly is the difference between a credit card issuer and a credit card network?

A credit card issuer is a financial institution that gives you a credit card. For example, Chase, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, and Bank of America are all credit card issuers. A credit card network is a company that provides a communication system between a merchant and an issuer in order to complete a credit card transaction.¹⁰ Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover are credit card networks.

6. Credit card networks include Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover.

Some credit card networks are more popular than others. When looking at the number of cards circulating for each network in the U.S., the difference is ostensible.

  • Visa: 391 million credit cards in circulation for the 3 months ending June 30, 2023¹³
  • Mastercard: 330 million credit cards in circulation for the FY 2023¹⁴
  • Discover: 66.3 million credit cards in circulation in 2023¹⁵ 
  • American Express: 80.2 million proprietary credit cards in circulation in 2023 worldwide¹⁶
Ranking Credit Card Networks by Popularity
Image Credit: Upgraded Points

Credit Card Spending Habits in the U.S.

7. The 8 largest credit card issuers generated $4.642 trillion in purchase volume in 2023, up 11.9% from 2022. They accounted for 79.76% of the industry’s $5.821-trillion total.

According to the 2024 Nilson Report,⁵ the breakdown of purchase volume from the top issuers of general-purpose credit cards in the U.S. is below:

  • Chase: $1.246 billion
  • American Express: $1.124 billion
  • Citi: $594 billion
  • Capital One: $575 billion
  • Bank of America: $494 billion
  • Discover: $218 billion
  • U.S. Bank: $200 billion
  • Wells Fargo: $192 billion
Purchase Volume From the top issuers of General-Purpose Credit Cards in the U.S.
Image Credit: Upgraded Points

8. Studies show that shoppers with credit cards will spend more on items, check out with bigger baskets, and focus on and remember more product benefits rather than costs.

Credit cards are an easy scapegoat when overspending occurs and might actually be the right source of blame. According to the “Neural Mechanisms of Credit Card Spending” report,¹⁵ studies show that shoppers with credit cards will spend more on items, check out with bigger baskets, focus on and remember more product benefits rather than costs, and make more indulgent and unplanned purchase choices.

Hot Tip:

Learn more in our detailed look at credit card spending facts and statistics.

Credit Card Debt in the U.S.

Credit Card Debt Statistics
Image Credit: Upgraded Points

9. The average credit card debt per household is $10,848. 

The average credit card debt per household in the U.S. is $10,848 as of Q4 2023, according to Wallethub.⁷

10. Credit card debt was the most widely held type of debt as of 2023.

The New York Fed also reported that credit card debt was the most widely held type of debt as of 2023. In fact, as of the end of 2023, Americans owed $1.13 trillion, which was a $50 billion (4.6%) increase from 2022.⁸ 

11. Americans in the $90,000 to $100,000 annual income range had a mean value of balance on credit cards of $11,210.

When broken down by household income, it may come as no surprise that the higher the household income, the greater the credit card debt. Americans in the $90,000 to $100,000 annual income range had an average credit card debt of $11,210.⁷ For those with a family income of $20,000 to $39.900, the mean value of balance on credit cards was $3,840.⁷

Cash vs. Credit Cards

12. Credit card use as a form of payment has been increasing, from 27% of payments in 2020 to 31% in 2022.

According to the “2023 Findings From the Diary of Consumer Payment Choice,”⁹ a survey by the Federal Reserve, cash’s share of all payments in 2022 remained consistent with 2020 at 18%. Credit cards as a form of payment have increased since 2016, from 27% in 2020 to 31% in 2022. This could be because the pandemic fundamentally changed shopping habits, resulting in shoppers doing most of their shopping online or using credit cards as a way to have less contact with others.

13. Credit cards are the most frequently used payment type online, accounting for a 54% share of payments.

While cash is the most popular payment method for in-store purchases, credit card usage is favored for online purchases.¹⁰ It accounts for a 54% share of payments, followed closely by debit cards (49%) and PayPal (42%). Gift cards (31%) and “buy now, pay later” systems (10%) also play a role, demonstrating the increasing complexity of the online payment ecosystem.

Final Thoughts

Based on the above credit card facts, it doesn’t seem like credit card spending or debt is going away soon. If you are considering putting that large purchase amount on your credit card for the points or thinking about opening a new credit card to make a balance transfer, remember these are still things you will need to pay off. If not paid off in full every month, you will incur a hefty interest charge. Consider all the facts listed above before getting into unneeded debt.


References

¹ ​Federal Reserve Bank of New York. (2024 February). Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit. https://www.newyorkfed.org/medialibrary/interactives/householdcredit/data/pdf/HHDC_2023Q4
² Horymski, C. (2024, March 11). Average Credit Card Debt Increases 10% to $6,501 in 2023. Experian. https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/state-of-credit-cards/
³ Horymski, C. (2024, April 24). What Is the Average Number of Credit Cards? Experian. https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/average-number-of-credit-cards-a-person-has/⁴ The Federal Reserve. (2023, June 2). Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2022 – May 2023. https://www.federalreserve.gov/publications/2023-economic-well-being-of-us-households-in-2022-banking-credit.htm
⁵ Nilson Report. (2024 February). Largest US Issuers of General Purpose Credit Cards. https://nilsonreport.com/newsletters/1258/
⁶ Banker, S., Dunfield, D., Huang, A., Prelec, D. (2021, February 18). Neural Mechanisms of Credit Card Spending. Scientific Reports. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-83488-3
⁷ McCann, A. (2024, May 9). Average Credit Card Debt. WalletHub. https://wallethub.com/edu/cc/average-credit-card-debt/25533
⁸ Research and Statistics Group (2024 August). Household Debt and Credit Report (Q4 2023). The New York Fed. https://www.newyorkfed.org/medialibrary/interactives/householdcredit/data/pdf/HHDC_2023Q4
⁹ Cubides, E., O’Brien, S. (2023, May 5). 2023 Findings from the Diary of Consumer Payment Choice. Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
https://www.frbsf.org/cash/wp-content/uploads/sites/7/2023-Findings-from-the-Diary-of-Consumer-Payment-Choice.pdf 
¹⁰ YouGov (2024, February 12). Cash remains king – 67% of Americans still use traditional in-store payment. https://business.yougov.com/content/48650-cash-remains-king-67-of-americans-still-prefer-traditional-in-store-payment
¹¹ The Federal Reserve (2022, March 10). Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF). https://www.federalreserve.gov/econres/scfindex.htm
https://www.frbsf.org/cash/publications/fed-notes/2023/may/2023-findings-from-the-diary-of-consumer-payment-choice/
¹² Cothern, L. (2023, January 11). What Is a Credit Card Network and How Do They Work? Credit Karma. https://www.creditkarma.com/credit-cards/i/credit-card-networks
¹³ Visa (n.d.) Operational Performance Data, Q4FY23. https://s1.q4cdn.com/050606653/files/doc_financials/2023/q4/Q4FY23-Visa-Operational-Performance-Data.pdf
¹⁴ Mastercard (n.d.) Supplemental Operational Performance. https://s25.q4cdn.com/479285134/files/doc_financials/2024/q1/1Q24-Mastercard-Supplemental-Operational-Performance-Data.pdf
¹⁵ Nilson Report (Issue 1256, 2024, January). https://fasterpaymentscouncil.org/userfiles/2080/files/Nilson%20Report_First%20Look_FPC_01-2024.pdf
¹⁶ American Express (n.d.). 2023 Annual Report. https://s26.q4cdn.com/747928648/files/doc_financials/2023/ar/American-Express-Annual-Report-2023.pdf

Frequently Asked Questions

What is considered good credit?

In general, considering the different credit scoring models, the typical ranges for a credit score being good or bad include the following:

  • 750 or higher – Excellent
  • 700 to 749 – Good
  • 650 to 699 – Fair
  • 600 to 649 – Poor
  • Below 600 – Extremely Poor

What happens if I max out my credit cards?

When you max out a credit card, you can expect your monthly payments to increase and future transactions to be denied until you lower your balance. You also risk the potential for your credit score to drop. Maxing out your credit card increases your credit utilization ratio, which is the amount of credit you use compared to the amount you have available.

What happens if I don’t make the minimum payment on my credit card?

If you consistently make less than the minimum payment on your credit cards, it will eventually end with you defaulting on your account (unless otherwise discussed with your credit card issuer).

What is the average interest rate on a credit card?

The average credit card interest rate is 28.06% as of Q3 2023.

Will too many credit cards hurt my credit?

The number of cards you have does not directly influence your score and is not part of your score calculation. If having more cards means you use less of your available credit (credit utilization), this actually helps increase your score.

What are the most popular credit card companies?

According to the Nilson Report, American Express, Bank of America, Capital One, Citigroup, Discover Financial, JPMorgan Chase, Synchrony Financial, and U.S. Bancorp are the most profitable payment card companies in the U.S.

What is the difference between a secured credit card and a credit card?

For unsecured credit cards, credit card companies will require at least average credit. Unsecured credit cards don’t require a deposit.

A secured credit card requires a deposit when opening the account. This deposit reduces the risk the credit card issuer will take when issuing the card. If you miss a payment, the credit card issuer will take the money from your deposit and pay the balance. Secured credit cards are typically for people with bad or no credit.

What is an annual fee on a credit card? 

An annual fee on a credit card is a price you must pay once a year to remain a cardholder and receive the card’s benefits. There is no set price range for an annual fee; it typically depends on the type of card and rewards.

How do I know which credit card rewards program is right for me?

There is no “one size fits all” rewards credit card. It will depend on whether you want a travel rewards card or a cash-back card. Think about how you spend your money and what kind of rewards you would like to receive from your card, then do your research.

What do banks consider when issuing credit cards?

Banks consider the following when issuing credit cards:

  • Credit Score: Credit card issuers look at your credit score to determine a risk factor in issuing you a credit card. This helps the issuers determine how likely you will be able to repay your credit card debt.
  • Delinquencies: Credit card issuers will look at any past-due accounts and late payments.
  • Credit Inquiries: Hard credit inquiries occur when you apply for a credit account, and the company looks into your credit. Too many hard inquiries can be a red flag to many credit card issuers.
  • Debt to Income Ratio: Credit card issuers want to know you can afford to pay your debts. They will look at your overall income and compare it with your debt to ensure they are not lending out more than you can pay.
  • Available Credit Usage: Credit usage is an important factor to credit card issuers. This reflects how much of your available credit you are using. If you have multiple maxed-out credit cards but pay them all on time, you are still using a good portion of your available credit. A good rule of thumb is to use less than 30% of your total credit.

How do I choose a credit card?

Certain factors are important to consider when choosing a credit card that is right for you. Do you want to do a balance transfer? Are you comfortable paying an annual fee? What is the interest rate? Do you care about points/rewards, etc.?

  • Interest Rate: Some cards offer no interest for the first year or a certain amount of months, but what will the interest rate be after that promotional period?
  • Annual Fees: There are cards out there that don’t have annual fees. Do some research before you commit to a card with a fee.
  • Other Charges: Some cards will charge fees on certain transactions like balance transfers, foreign transactions, and cash advances. Look at these fees and consider if you should be concerned about it.
  • Rewards Programs: If the card has an annual fee, does the rewards program outweigh the fee? Do you want to earn miles, cash-back, or points? Choose a card that has a rewards program geared towards how you spend your money.
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About Alex Miller

Founder and CEO of Upgraded Points, Alex is a leader in the industry and has earned and redeemed millions of points and miles. He frequently discusses the award travel industry with CNBC, Fox Business, The New York Times, and more.

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