BACK

Research and Statistics

Credit card ownership statistics

Summary

How many credit cards does the average American have, and what types do they have? We’ve compiled industry statistics to answer those questions and more about who’s carrying what cards.

The editorial content below is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners. Learn more about our advertising policy.

The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of the offers mentioned may have expired. Please see the bank’s website for the most current version of card offers; and please review our list of best credit cards, or use our CardMatch™ tool to find cards matched to your needs.

#

See more stats

According to data released April 26, 2018, by the American Banking Association, there were 364 million open credit card accounts in the United States as of the end of 2017. That number includes 185 million accounts held by superprime consumers, 104 million held by prime consumers and 75 million held by subprime consumers. The number of credit card accounts increased 4.1 percent since the end of 2016, according to the ABA data.12

Credit cards are found in most Americans’ wallets. Multiple studies say about 7 in 10 Americans have at least one credit card. Boston Federal Reserve data released in August 2017, for example, found 75.7 percent of consumers had at least one credit card, defined as a card that allows the cardholder to make a purchase by borrowing funds that will be paid back to the credit card company later.1 Using the Census Bureau estimate of 249.5 million adults in the U.S.,6 that means there are about 189 million Americans adults with at least one credit card.

Five percent of Americans have a charge card, which is a type of credit card that must be paid off in full every month. There is some overlap between credit card and charge card holders, according to the Boston Fed data, so in total, 76.9 percent of Americans (192 million) have credit card, a charge card or both.

HOW MANY CARDS DOES THE AVERAGE AMERICAN HAVE?
None1-23-45-67+Mean (incl. those with none)Mean (card owners only)
201429%33%18%9%7%2.63.7
200822%35%22%11%9%2.93.7
200620%35%23%11%8%2.93.6
200421%33%25%11%8%2.93.6
200217%35%23%12%11%3.34
200122%33%23%11%9%3.14
Source: Gallup2

 

Ten million new consumers have entered the credit card marketplace in the year leading up to Q2 2016, according to an August 2016 TransUnion report.4

Most Americans foresee the death of cash in their lifetimes, according to a July 2016 survey by Gallup. More than 6 in 10 Americans agree that “the United States will be a cashless society, in which all purchases are made with credit cards, debit cards and other forms of electronic payment.”3


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 2013 had: 2.7 general purpose cards, 0.1 charge cards and 1.4 branded cards (cards displaying a merchant’s logo).1

HOW MANY CARDS OF DIFFERENT TYPES DO AMERICANS HAVE?
201120122013
Credit cards3.63.94.1
     Rewards2.02.22.4
     Nonrewards1.71.71.7
General purpose credit cards2.32.42.7
Charge cards0.20.20.1
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Boston12

 

Credit card issuers mailed 290 million card offers to consumers in March 2018. The top most-mailed offers were 0 percent purchase offers (71 percent) and 0 percent balance transfer offers (61 percent).9

General market offers dominated the June 2016 mailings (51 percent), while premium offers made up 19 percent, offers for plain vanilla cards (a simple card with no features) made up 28 percent, and offers for cards to help build credit  made up 2 percent.9


Card ownership by age

Credit card ownership is most prevalent among baby boomers and college graduates.8

Credit card ownership by age
18-24

67%

25-34

83%

35-49

76%

50+

78%

Source: FICO11

 

Young Americans are waiting longer to get their first credit card, possibly because younger consumers also are dealing with student debt. Also, 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.

However, that doesn’t mean young people are not using credit cards. According to Sallie Mae’s 2016 “Majoring in Money” report, 56 percent of undergraduate students owned a credit card in 2016, compared to 30 percent in 2013, and 85 percent carry debit cards. The older the student, the more likely the student is to have a credit card. Forty-three percent of students aged 18-20 have a credit card, compared to 63 percent of students aged 21-22 and 71 percent of those aged 23-24. Students overall are more likely to use debit or cash than credit cards.5

Forty-four percent of college students do not use credit cards; these students tend to be younger and from low-income families.5

According to a 2015 FICO study, though, millennials in general – and older millennials in particular – have warmed up to credit cards. According to the study, 83 percent of millennials aged 25 to 34 use credit cards – more than any other age group studied. About half of those have three or more credit cards, and 37 percent said they were very likely to apply for a new card within six months.7

Additionally, 67 percent of those aged 18-24 use credit cards,11 and 21 percent said they would likely apply for a new card in the next six months.7


Card ownership by credit score

According to an August 2016 Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, about half of borrowers with subprime scores – under 620 – have credit cards, compared to 60 percent in 2007. About 88 percent of borrowers with the highest scores (780 and above) have credit cards in 2016.10

Prime and above consumers represent nearly 79 percent of all credit card users, according to the TransUnion report.4 At the same time, increasingly more nonprime consumers are accessing credit cards, the statement said.


Sources

What’s up next?

In Research and Statistics

Fed: banks ease grip on cards

Just as banks are finally lowering their barriers to credit card ownership, consumers aren’t so keen to accept them, says a new Fed survey of senior loan officers

Published: November 3, 2014

See more stories
Credit Card Rate Report Updated: September 18th, 2019
Business
15.45%
Airline
17.38%
Cash Back
17.52%
Reward
17.39%
Student
17.58%

Questions or comments?

Contact us

Editorial corrections policies

Learn more

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.

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.