Who rolls over card debt and pays late? Study finds surprises

Age and financial obligations – not income and education – are factors

Sabrina Karl
Personal Finance Writer
Data whiz and visual storyteller


In credit card parlance, revolvers are cardholders who carry over their debt from month to month, leaving an unpaid balance every statement cycle. Much has been studied about how they differ from pay-it-all cardholders, referred to as transactors. 

Auriemma Consulting Group has split the revolvers into two behavioral groups – those who pay on time every month and those prone to making late payments – and the results of their comparison may surprise you. 

According to Auriemma’s data, 56 percent of U.S. cardholders are revolvers, and of them, about a third have skipped or missed a payment on at least one card in the past 12 months. The other two-thirds say they haven’t missed any payments in the past year. 

When Auriemma compared data from the two revolver types, they found that those paying late are more often employed than the timely payments crowd (86 vs. 66 percent), are much more often the parent of a minor (72 vs. 34 percent), and are more likely to have a college degree (70 vs. 57 percent). 

What this means: Making late payments doesn’t appear to be driven as much by income or education status as it does by age and the number of other financial obligations a person has. 

For instance, on-time revolvers were an average of 46 years old, while for late-payment revolvers the average age was 34. The late-paying cardholders were also much more likely to hold a mortgage, a student loan or both. 

Card issuers will note that Auriemma found late-paying revolvers are also among the least loyal cardholders. More than 50 percent said they had opened a new card in the past 12 months, while about half said they had canceled a card. That compares to just 14 and 6 percent, respectively, among the on-timers. 

Auriemma’s study was conducted online by an independent field service provider in March 2018, drawing responses from 800 U.S. adult credit card holders. Auriemma released the findings May 31.

Who rolls over card debt and pays late? Study finds surprises

See related: Late payment: 4 ways it affects your credit score, More infographics

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Updated: 03-23-2019