Research and Statistics

Millennials’ most-common debt: Cards, not student loans


When you think of millennials and debt, student loans come to mind. But a new survey says card debt is actually more common.

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Say the words “millennials” and “debt” together and your mind likely jumps to student loans. But according to a new survey, credit card debt is more prevalent among young Americans.

Student loan servicer Navient canvassed over 3,000 U.S. consumers age 22-35 and asked whether they currently hold certain types of debt. Three-quarters reported carrying at least one type, with credit card balances topping the list at 4 in 10 millennials.

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Though student loans ranked second at 31 percent, that represents a considerable margin below the 40 percent who hold card debt. Auto loans came in slightly below student loans at 28 percent of millennials, with mortgages fourth at 23 percent.

While credit card debt is more common, student debt often dwarfs the size of the card debt. According to Federal Reserve consumer credit data, total credit card debt in the United States was about $1 trillion in August 2017. Student debt, which is concentrated among younger consumers, was nearly $1.5 trillion.

Navient’s findings come from its third annual “Money Under 35” survey, which was conducted by research firm Ipsos between May 9 and June 1, 2017. After weighting the results to mirror U.S. population demographics, the report was released Oct. 4.

Millennials' credit card debt

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