ADVERTISEMENT

Credit card use and availability statistics

By  |  Published: July 30, 2015

CreditCards.com Statistic page logo

See more
credit card statistics


Americans want access to credit. In fact, in January 2015, 58 percent of North American bankers said they expected consumer demand for credit to increase.1 And while fewer credit card applications are being rejected, credit card limits are not as high as they used to be.

In June 2015, 13.5 percent of people who had applied for a credit card said they had been turned down, compared to 20.2 percent a year earlier. Among consumers requesting credit card limit increases, 17 percent of respondents said they had been rejected, down from 33 percent in June 2014.2   

But while more consumers are seeing their credit card applications approved, many are finding that their bank card limits are dropping. 

  • According to Experian, the average credit card limit on a new bank card for people with super prime credit -- meaning a Vantage Score between 721 and 850 -- was $9,543 in Q1 2015, down from $9,604 in Q1 2014.3
  • For those with prime credit (Vantage Score: 661 - 720) the average bank card limit on new cards was $5,209 in Q1 2015, down from $5,382 the year before.3
  • For those with near prime credit (Vantage Score: 601 - 660) the average bank card limit on new cards was $2,277 in Q1 2015, down from $2,497 the year before.3
  • For those with subprime credit (Vantage Score: 500 - 600) the average bank card limit on new cards was $966 in Q1 2015, down from $1,171 the year before.3
  • For those with deep subprime credit (Vantage Score: 300 - 499) the average bank card limit on new cards was $509 in Q1, 2015, down from $686 the year before.3

 

Frequency of card usage

According to a Gallup survey in April 2014, 33 percent of Americans have one to two credit cards, 18 percent have three to four cards, 9 percent have five to six cards, and 7 percent have seven or more cards. Twenty-nine percent of Americans said they do not have a credit card, up from 22 percent of Americans in 2008.4

HOW MANY CARDS DOES THE AVERAGE AMERICAN HAVE?
  None 1-2 3-4 5-6 7+ Mean (incl. those with none) Mean (card owners only)
2014 29%
33%
18%
9%
7%
2.6 3.7
2008 22%
35%
22%
11%
9%
2.9 3.7
2006 20%
35%
23%
11%
8%
2.9 3.6
2004 21%
33%
25%
11%
8%
2.9 3.6
2002 17%
35%
23%
12%
11%
3.3 4
2001 22%
33%
23%
11%
9%
3.1 4
Source: Gallup

 

Among credit card holders surveyed in 2012, 48 percent said they used on average one credit card per month, 41 percent said they used two to three cards per month, 3 percent said they used four or five cards per month and about 8 percent said they don't use their credit cards.5

In the same survey, 30 percent of credit card holders say they put less than 10 percent of their purchases on a credit card per month, 18 percent put 10 to 24 percent of purchases on a credit card, 12 percent put 25 to 49 percent of purchases on a credit card and 37 percent say they put at least 50 percent of their purchases on a credit card.5

PERCENTAGE OF PURCHASES CARDHOLDERS MAKE USING A CREDIT CARD
% of purchases charged each month % of cardholders
Less than 10 percent of their purchases on a credit card per month
30%
10 to 24 percent of purchases on a credit card
18%
25 to 49 percent of purchases on a credit card
12%
At least 50 percent of their purchases on a credit card
37%
Source: AARP Survey on Budgeting and Credit Card Use; April 2012

 

How Americans pay their credit card bills

While consumers are using their credit cards, they are not maxing them out. The national average credit card utilization rate in 2014 was 30 percent.6

Most Americans avoid carrying a credit card balance at all. Forty-eight percent of American credit card holders in April 2014 said they always paid their entire balance off each month and an additional 16 percent said they usually pay their entire balances off.  In contrast, 20 percent said they usually leave a balance, 12 percent said they usually pay only the minimum amount due and 1 percent said they pay less than the minimum amount due.4

What Americans are buying with credit cards

The average value of general-purpose credit card transactions in 2012 was $179 for businesses and $76 for consumers.7

Among credit card users surveyed in 2012, 67 percent used their cards to buy clothing, 64 percent used their cards to buy gas, 64 percent used their cards to buy food and 62 percent used their cards to pay for travel expenses.5

WHAT CREDIT CARD HOLDERS BUY WITH THEIR CARDS
Clothing
67%
Gas
64%
Dining out
64%
Travel (plane tickets, hotel/lodging, other transportation, etc.)
62%
Groceries
58%
Entertainment
47%
Car maintenance
47%
Health care (doctor visit, prescription drugs, etc.)
41%
Home maintenance
33%
Monthly bills (electric/gas, phone, utility, water, etc.)
31%
Insurance
19%
Car payment
5%
Child care
    2%
Source: AARP Survey on Budgeting and Credit Card Use; April 2012

 


Credit-card-statistics-road-mapFUN FACT:
Among credit card holders surveyed in 2012, those age 50 and up were more likely than those age 18 to 49 to use their credit card for travel (68 percent versus 55 percent), clothing (72 percent versus 62 percent), home maintenance (39 percent versus 28 percent) and car maintenance (54 percent versus 40 percent).5

 


A small percentage of Americans use credit cards to fund education. In 2014, 3 percent of families used credit cards to help pay for college. The average amount students charged on credit cards in 2014 to help pay for their education was $2,150. The average amount parents charged on credit cards in 2014 to help pay for their child's education was $2,678.8

Americans also use credit cards to pay for medical expenses. The percentage of low- and middle-income households with credit card debt who carried debt from out of pocket medical expenses in 2012 was 62 percent, and the average amount of medical credit card debt: $1,555.9

In 2012, half of Americans age 50 and over had credit card debt resulting from medical expenses, averaging $893 in medical expenses compared to $746 among younger households. For those over 50, prescription drugs and dental expenses made up most of the medical charges.10

Other things Americans 50 and over said contributed to their credit card debt in 2012:

  • 49 percent said car repairs.10
  • 38 percent said home repairs.10
  • 34 percent said basic living expenses such as rent, groceries and utilities.10
  • 23 percent said money given to relatives contributed to their credit card debt.10

In 2012, 16 percent of the 50+ population said small items such as restaurant meals, movies and DVDs are the biggest contributors to their credit card debt, compared with 27 percent of those under 50.10

 

EXPENSES CONTRIBUTING TO CREDIT CARD DEBT (excluding medical debt)
  Percentage of indebted households 50 and older with current credit card debt from the expense
  Percentage of indebted households under 50 with current credit card debt from the expense
Car repairs
49%
42%
Home repairs
38%
25%
Layoffs or loss of a job
23%
27%
Smaller purchases of nonessentials
41%
53%
Major purchase of a nonessentials
29%
37%
Major household appliance purchase
23%
17%
Money given to, or used to pay the debts of relatives
23%
11%
College tuition/expenses
9%
18%
Starting up a new business or running an existing business
6%
11%
Source: "In the Red: Older Americans and Credit Card Debt" by AARP and Demos, January 2013

 

Consumers are largely willing to use their credit cards everywhere. In 2014, 48 percent of Americans preferred to use a credit card when making online payments, up 7 percent from 2013.11


Credit-card-statistics-road-mapFUN FACT:
In 2014, 47 percent of consumers surveyed said they have made a purchase using a credit card they have stored on file with the online retailer they shop with most often. Twenty-nine percent said they registered a credit card with the online retailer they shop with most often. 11

 


In 2014, 40 percent of consumers surveyed preferred using a credit card over other payment methods in a department store, 37 percent at a dine-in restaurant, 23 percent at a fast-food restaurant, 19 percent at a coffee shop, 28 percent at a discount store, 39 percent at a gas station, and 31 percent at a supermarket.11

Online shopping prefs

Source: TSYS 2014 Consumer Payments Study
 
Sources
  1. FICO survey
  2. Federal Reserve Bank of New York's SCE Credit Access Survey, February 2015
  3. Experian: Highlights from the Q1 2015 Experian-Oliver Wyman Market Intelligence Report
  4. Gallup survey
  5. AARP Bulletin Survey on Budgeting and Credit Card Use
  6. Experian's State of Credit 2014
  7. The 2013 Federal Reserve Payments Study
  8. Sallie Mae: How America Pays for College
  9. Demos: The Debt Disparity
  10. AARP and Demos study: In the Red: Older Americans and Credit Card Debt
  11. TSYS 2014 Consumer Payments Study

 

See related: Credit card statistics, Credit card delinquency statistics, Credit score statistics

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Join the discussion
We encourage an active and insightful conversation among our users. Please help us keep our community civil and respectful. For your safety, do not disclose confidential or personal information such as bank account numbers or social security numbers. Anything you post may be disclosed, published, transmitted or reused.

If you are commenting using a Facebook account, your profile information may be displayed with your comment depending on your privacy settings. By leaving the 'Post to Facebook' box selected, your comment will be published to your Facebook profile in addition to the space below.

The editorial content on CreditCards.com is not sponsored by any bank or credit card issuer. The journalists in the editorial department are separate from the company's business operations. The comments posted below are not provided, reviewed or approved by any company mentioned in our editorial content. Additionally, any companies mentioned in the content do not assume responsibility to ensure that all posts and/or questions are answered.




Updated: 05-22-2017

ADVERTISEMENT


Weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, advice, articles and tips delivered to your inbox. It's FREE.


ADVERTISEMENT