Home > Credit Cards > How Much Credit Card Debt Does the Average American Have?

Comments 0 Comments

Credit cards can be useful financial tools, but they’re easy to abuse and put millions of Americans in debt. In fact, the average American carries more than two credit cards and a balance of about $4,400 on each card, according to data taken in June 2015 from credit bureau Experian. But those figures don’t provide a full picture of how credit is used.

For starters, Experian’s data is based on credit card balances reported by issuers at various times. A borrower may have a $500 balance he intends to pay off in full once his payment is due, but if the issuer reports the data before the bill’s due date, the balance will appear on his credit report. (You can get your free annual credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com to see what balances are being reported to the credit bureaus for your accounts.)

Experian’s data also doesn’t distinguish between those who pay their balance in full each month (transactors) and those who carry a balance from month to month (revolvers). Credit card issuers don’t always report this information, so paying a bill in full won’t directly impact one’s credit score.

Though the average credit card balance is $4,404, borrowers may not carry those balances month to month and accrue interest. In terms of unpaid balances, the average credit card user has $3,573 of debt, according to a 2014 Gallup poll, which is a lot. If you paid $100 a month toward that balance on a card with a 15% APR, it would take four years to pay off, assuming you made no more charges on that card. See how making bigger payments could help you curb interest and get you out of debt faster with this credit card payoff calculator.

The good news is credit card debt and balances are much lower than they were several years ago. In 2007, the average card balance was $4,572, while in 2010 it was $4,538 and $4,410 in 2014, per Experian. According to Gallup, the average credit card debt was $3,848 in 2008, though it was $3,426 in 2006 — lower than 2014. A larger share of adults reported not having any credit cards or balances they didn’t pay in full that year, so perhaps Americans have become less reliant on credit.

It’s hard to characterize the average amount of credit card debt because everyone uses credit so differently. For your part, try to focus on how credit cards might work for you, and if you’re struggling to pay your bills, try to get out from under them. As you can see, it’s not worth it to carry around debt. You can see how your credit card spending affects your credit scores for free on Credit.com.

More on Credit Reports & Credit Scores:

Image: iStock

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team