Percentage of credit cards with balances rises

'Revolvers' increase to a 4-year high

Sabrina Karl
Personal Finance Writer
Data whiz and visual storyteller


After five years of edging downward, the share of active credit cardholders who are carrying a balance has inched up.

Cardholders who perpetually hold a balance are called “revolvers,” and they account for about 6 in 10 of all consumers with an active credit card. The latest reading from the American Bankers Association shows that for the third quarter of 2016, revolvers comprised 59.7 percent of active cardholders, up from 58.6 percent a year earlier.

On the flip side of the coin are the “transactors,” who pay their balance in full each month. Their ranks grew to 41.4 percent last year, but dropped off in the third quarter to just over 40 percent. The calculations excludes dormant accounts – those who have not used their credit cards for the prior three months.

The last time the proportion of revolvers was this high was in 2012, when 61.4 percent of cardholders were carrying their balance. But this year’s uptick is small, and the current level is still well below the post-recession highs seen in 2009-2012.

The American Bankers Association releases a new Credit Card Market Monitor every quarter. The report was released Jan. 31 and reflects credit card data from July through September 2016. Data for the report is taken from a nationally representative sample provided by Argus Information Services.

credit card revolvers

See related: More infographics

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Updated: 03-23-2019