Credit card ownership statistics


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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.

  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: 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 

  2011 2012 2013
Credit cards 3.6 3.9 4.1
     Rewards 2.0 2.2 2.4
     Nonrewards 1.7 1.7 1.7
General purpose credit cards 2.3 2.4 2.7
Charge cards 0.2 0.2 0.1
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
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.


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Updated: 03-24-2019