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.
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.12Credit 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?|
|None||1-2||3-4||5-6||7+||Mean (incl. those with none)||Mean (card owners only)|
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?|
|General purpose credit cards||2.3||2.4||2.7|
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|
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.
- The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s 2015 Surveys of Consumer Payment Choice, released August 8, 2017
- Gallup, April 25, 2014 survey
- Gallup poll: “Most Americans Foresee Death of Cash in Their Lifetime” 2016
- TransUnion Industry Insights Report Q2 2016 press release, August 2016
- Majoring in Money report by Sallie Mae, 2016
- U.S. Census bureau, July 2016 estimate of U.S. adult population
- FICO Survey: “Millennials Still Want Credit Cards,” June 2016
- Bankrate MoneyPulse survey: Surprisingly few millennials carry credit cards May 2016
- Credit Suisse U.S. card mail volume research note, issued April 2018
- Federal Reserve Bank of New York “Recent Developments in Consumer Credit Card Borrowing,” August 2016
- FICO “The Digital Generation: Are Millennials Looking For Credit Cards or Alternatives?”
- American Bankers Association, Credit Card Market Monitor, releasee April 26, 2018