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Credit card industry facts (2006-2007)

By Ben Woolsey

UPDATE NOTE: Please check out our updated credit card statistics page.

Credit card industry

  • The top 10 credit card issuers controlled approximately 88 percent of the credit card market at the end of 2006, based on credit card receivables outstanding (Source: FDIC)

Market share ranked by major card type:
1. Visa -- 54 percent
2. MasterCard -- 29 percent
3. American Express -- 13 percent
4. Discover Card -- 4 percent
(Source: Cardweb)

Firsts, scope

  • The first widely accepted plastic charge card was issued in 1958 by American Express.
  • The first general-use credit card that allowed balances to be paid over time was the BankAmericard (which in 1977 changed its name to Visa), issued in 1959 (Source:PBS Frontline; American Express, Visa USA).
  • The average interest rate across all existing credit card accounts was 13.08 percent as of November 2007 (Source: Federal Reserve).
  • There were 984 million bank-issued Visa and MasterCard credit card and debit card accounts in the U.S in 2006 (Source: Visa USA, MasterCard International).

American consumers

  • Total U.S. consumer debt (which includes installment debt, but not mortgage debt) reached $2.46 Trillion in June 2007, up from $2.398 Trillion at the end of 2006 (Source: Federal Reserve).
  • Total U.S. consumer revolving debt reached $904 billion in June 2007, up from $879 billion at the end of 2006 (Source: Federal Reserve).
  • The median U.S. household income is currently $43,200 and the typical family's credit card balance is now almost 5 percent of their annual income   (Source: Federal Reserve).
  • Of the households that owe money on credit cards, the median balance was $2,200 -- meaning half owe more, half less (Source: MSN Money).
  • Approximately 40 percent of credit card users paid their balance in full every month in 2006  (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia).
  • The majority of U.S. households have no credit card debt.  About a quarter have no credit cards, and an additional 30 percent of households pay off their balances every month (Source: Federal Reserve).
  • On average, today's consumer has a total of 13 credit obligations on record at a credit bureau. These include credit cards (such as department store charge cards, gas cards, and bank cards) and installment loans (auto loans, mortgage loans, student loans, etc.). Not included are savings and checking accounts (typically not reported to a credit bureau). Of these 13 credit obligations, nine are likely to be credit cards and four are likely to be installment loans (Source: myfico.com).
  • Fifty-one percent of the U.S. population has at least two credit cards (Source: Center for Media Research).
  • Approximately 14 percent of Americans use 50 percent or more of their available credit, and this group carries an average of 6.6 credit cards (Source: Center for Media Research).
  • Those utilizing at least 50 percent of their credit lines have an average credit score of 645, compared to the national average of 674 (Source: Center for Media Research).
  • One in six families with credit cards pays only the minimum due every month (Sources: American Bankers Association, Federal Reserve).
  • On average, today's consumers are paying their bills on time, with less than half of all consumers have ever been reported as 30 or more days late on a payment. Only three out of 10 have ever been 60 or more days overdue on any credit obligation. Seventy-seven percent of all consumers have never had a loan or account that was 90+ days overdue, and fewer than 20 percent have ever had a loan or account closed by the lender due to default (Source: myfico.com).
  • About 40 percent of credit card holders carry a balance of less than $1,000. About 15 percent are far less conservative in their use of credit cards and have total card balances in excess of $10,000. When you look at the total of all credit obligations combined (except mortgage loans), 48 percent of consumers carry less than $5,000 of debt. This includes all credit cards, lines of credit and loans -- everything but mortgages. Nearly 37 percent carry more than $10,000 of nonmortgage debt as reported to the credit bureaus (Source: myfico.com).
  • The typical consumer has access to approximately $19,000 on all credit cards combined. More than half of all people with credit cards are using less than 30 percent of their total credit card limit. Just over one in seven is using 80 percent or more of their credit card limit (Source: myfico.com).
  • The average consumer's oldest obligation is 14 years old, indicating that he or she has been managing credit for some time. In fact, one out of four consumers had credit histories of 20 years or longer. Only one in 20 consumers had credit histories shorter than two years.  (Source: myfico.com)
  • The average consumer has had only one credit inquiry on his or her accounts within the past year. Fewer than 6 percent had four or more inquiries resulting from a search for new credit (Source: myfico.com).
  • There has been a 23 percent increase over the past five years in the number of credit card holders who use cards that accumulate points for merchandise, airline tickets or both (Source: Vertis).
  • At least one in 10 consumers has more than 10 credit cards. However, the overall average number of credit cards per consumer is four (Source: Experian's "National Score Index").
  • Approximately 29 percent of low- and middle-income households with credit card debt reported that medical expenses contributed to their current balances (Source: http://www.demos.org/).
  • U.S. consumers racked up an estimated $51 billion worth of fast food on their personal credit and debit cards in 2006, compared to $33.2 billion one year earlier (Source: http://www.carddata.com/).
  • Americans older than 50 are more likely to have a credit card than those 25 to 49 years old, but tend to use them less frequently (Source: 2007 AARP payments study).
  • An estimated 88 percent of consumers surveyed admitted to immediately shredding or simply throwing out credit card offers they receive in the mail (Source: GfK Roper / CreditCards.com  survey).
  • Only 50 percent of consumers survey are satisfied with their primary credit card (Source: GfK Roper / CreditCards.com  Survey)
  • Low interest rate is by far the most important factor when choosing a new credit card, cited by 58 percent of respondents (Source: GfK Roper / CreditCards.com  survey).
  • Nearly one in every three consumer purchases in the United States is made with a payment card, including credit, debit and prepaid products (Source: Visa USA).
  • Of every $100 spent by consumers, nearly $40 is in a form other than cash or check (Source: Visa USA).
  • Consumers carry more than 1 billion Visa cards worldwide. More than 450 million of those cards are in the United States (Source: Visa USA).
  • U.S. Visa cardholders alone conduct more than $1 trillion in annual volume (Source: Visa USA).
  • The average ticket for Visa purchases is consistently more than cash (Source: Visa USA).

Identity theft

  • Unlike the alarmingly high percentage of Americans who responded that they had been victims of identity fraud (representing an estimated 9.9 million Americans in a 2003 FTC survey) only 674,354 people filed a formal complaint with FTC in 2006 reporting misuse of personal information, of which only 36 percent (246,035) involved actual ID theft (Source: Federal Trade Commission).
  • States with the highest per capita rates of ID theft: Arizona, Nevada, California, Texas, Florida, Colorado, Georgia, New York (Source: Federal Trade Commission).
  • States with the lowest per capita rates of ID theft: Montana, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Kentucky, Maine, West Virginia, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, Vermont (Source: Federal Trade Commission).

Updated: August 17, 2010


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