Our team has compiled statistics on total U.S. credit card debt over the years, average credit card debt per cardholder and much more.
Americans’ revolving debt, the bulk of which is credit card balances, fell to $975.9 billion in 2020, down from $1.0942 trillion1 in 2019, according to the Federal Reserve.
Revolving debt clocked in at over $1 trillion for the first time since the Great Recession in September 2017. But the coronavirus pandemic caused a sharp drop in consumer spending and bank lending in 2020.
What is the average credit card debt?
It depends on how you measure it. The average credit card debt is:
- $1,621 per account, U.S. adults with a credit report and Social Security number.3
- $2,044 average balance on store credit cards.2
- $3,824 per person, U.S. resident adults4
- $5,111 per cardholder, excluding unused cards and store cards5
- $4,607 per U.S. adult with a credit card1, 9
- $5,897 average balance on credit cards at the end of 2020, according to Experian. That is down 11.04%, from $6,629 at the end of 2019.2
Until the coronavirus pandemic hit hard in 2020, the amount of average credit card debt had been steadily increasing after a dip in the wake of the Great Recession. Average balances decreased from 2019 to 2020 due to a variety of factors, including tighter lending requirements and changes in consumer spending patterns due to quarantines, lockdowns and unemployment. For example, many households spent less on dining out and travel during the pandemic. A CreditCards.com poll found that many consumers plan to continue spending less even after the pandemic.6
The average credit card debt per borrower dipped to $5,111 in the last quarter of 2020, down from $5,835 at the same time in 2019, according to TransUnion statistics.5
Transactors vs. revolvers
Card issuers divide the world into two groups: “transactors” who use their cards for purchases and pay off the balances each month; and “revolvers” who carry balances on their cards, paying interest charges month to month.
To pure transactors, the balances on their cards aren’t really debts at all, since any purchases will be paid off before interest charges are applied.
The percentage of U.S. households revolving credit card debt from month to month increased to 43% in 2020, up from 37% in 2019. Before 2020, that number had held steady for several years after a drop that began in 2010, according to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.7
Credit card delinquency trending down again
Credit card delinquency rates track the percentage of Americans who are late in paying their bills, and as such, often are a harbinger of rising credit card debt.
Credit card delinquencies of 30 days or more, as tracked by the Federal Reserve, decreased during most of 2020 after an upward trend that began in 2015. Delinquencies ballooned in the wake of the Great Recession, then began to fall steeply starting in mid-2009.8
Credit card delinquency rates, like average card debt, vary. Some sources consider a credit card account to be delinquent if it is past due by 30, 60 or 90 days.
How to get out of credit card debt
If you are late paying your credit card bills and struggling in a quicksand of debt, there are ways to erase all of that red ink.
Balance transfer credit cards, with a 0% interest introductory period usually for a year or more, can give you breathing room to whittle away at your credit card debt until it’s gone before the higher interest rate kicks in.
- Federal Reserve’s G.19 report on consumer credit for February 2021
- Experian’s State of Credit 2020
- Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Household Debt and Credit Report, final quarter 2020
- Federal Reserve’s G.19 report on consumer credit for December 2020 (CreditCards.com story on report) and S. Census population estimate 2019
- TransUnion Consumer Credit Origination, Balance & Delinquency Trends: Q4 2020 report
- CreditCards.com poll on post-pandemic spending plans
- National Foundation for Credit Counseling 2020 Financial Literacy Survey
- Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Credit Card Delinquency Rates
- Federal Reserve Report on Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households, May 2020