Credit card ownership statistics

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credit card statistics

Credit cards are found in most Americans' wallets. Multiple studies say about 7 in 10 Americans have at least one credit card. Federal Reserve date released in 2014, for example, found 72 percent of consumers had at least one credit card.1 Using the Census Bureau estimate of 235 million adult consumers in the U.S.6, that means there are about 167 million Americans adults with at least one credit card.  

  None 1-2 3-4 5-6 7+ Mean (incl. those with none) Mean (card owners only)
2014 29%
2.6 3.7
2008 22%
2.9 3.7
2006 20%
2.9 3.6
2004 21%
2.9 3.6
2002 17%
3.3 4
2001 22%
3.1 4
   Source: Gallup
Some groups are more likely to own credit cards than others. In Experian's State of Credit 2013 report, the credit scoring company found that consumers had on average 2.19 bank credit cards (which do not include store cards) in 2013. Baby boomers (age 47-65) tended to have the most bank cards, with 2.66 cards on average. Generation X (age 30-46) was next with 2.13 cards. Americans over the age of 66 were next, having on average 1.90 cards, and millennials (age 19-29) had the fewest number of bank credit cards, on average, with 1.57 cards.4


Americans are waiting longer to get their first credit card these days. The recession made issuers stingier about granting cards to anyone, but younger consumers also have student debt to contend with and a 2009 law restricting their access to cards. The Credit CARD Act of 2009 bans credit card approvals for anyone under 21 years old unless they have an adult co-signer or can prove they have sufficient income to pay the bills.  

According to Sallie Mae's 2013 "How America Pays for College" report, 30 percent of undergraduate students owned a credit card in 2013, compared to 35 percent in 2012 and 42 percent in 2010. The older the student, the more likely they were to have a credit card. Forty-seven percent of college seniors had plastic in 2013, down from 60 percent in 2012. Twenty-seven percent of sophomores had a credit card in 2013, down from 28 percent in 2012. Only 14 percent of freshmen had a card in 2013, down from 21 percent in 2012. Among juniors, however, card ownership increased, with 46 percent of juniors owning a credit card in 2013 compared to 38 percent in 2012.5

Credit card usage by grade level, year-over-year

 Other findings concering college students and credit card ownership:

  • 33 percent of white college students had credit cards, compared to 24 percent of African-American college students and 22 percent of Hispanic students.
  • 34 percent of students from high-income families had credit cards in 2013 compared to 32 percent of students from low-income families and 28 percent of students from middle income families.
  • While 27 percent of college students carried both a credit card and a debit card in 2013, 20 percent of college students carried neither. That breaks down to 31 percent of freshmen, 22 percent of sophomores, 8 percent of juniors and 9 percent of seniors who had neither a credit card nor a debit card.5

The western United States has the most college-age credit card holders, with 37 percent of students who live in the West and 30 percent of students who live in the Midwest owning credit cards compared to 27 percent of college students in the South and 26 percent of college students in the Northeast.5

Types of credit cards Americans own

Americans tend to hold a variety of cards. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, the average credit card holder in 2012 had four: 2.4 general purpose cards, 0.2 charge cards and 1.5 branded cards (cards displaying a merchant's logo). Of the four credit cards held by the average credit card user in 2012, 2.3 earned rewards and 1.7 did not.1 

  2010 2011 2012
Credit cards 3.9 3.8 4
     Rewards 2.1 2.1 2.3
     Nonrewards 1.8 1.7 1.7
General purpose credit cards 2.1 2.3 2.4
Charge cards 0.4 0.2 0.2
Merchant branded cards 1.5 1.4 1.5
   Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Boston


Published: November 6, 2014

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