The average credit card debt is on the rise and the U.S. average household owes a crippling amount. According to Transunion, the average credit card debt per U.S. adult is $5,525 in 2021. And for US households, the average credit card debt balance is $7,938 per Wallethub.
Another interesting stat on the average credit card debt is that over 7 million Americans have access to a credit card. In addition, the total US credit card debt outstanding is a whopping $934.8B, nearly 1 trillion dollars!
Meanwhile, Wallethub reports that the average debt per credit card that doesn't usually carry a balance is $1,154 (must equal spend).
And there are over 457 million credit cards in the US. Those are some crazy numbers!
Households in Alaska owe the most with a whopping average of $11,250 in 2020 according to WalletHub. And Hawaii ($10,987) and Virginia ($9,589) come in a close 2nd and 3rd.
Credit Cards Are Popular For Rewards And Convenience
When used responsibly, credit cards are convenient and a wonderful way to earn rewards. But they can be dangerous and harmful if you're reckless. How many times have you withdrawn a wad of cash only to see it disappear a few days later with little idea where it all went? Certainly don't do that with your credit cards.
I track my spending like a hawk. I use free tracking tools by Personal Capital to monitor where all my my money is going.
Furthermore, I get tons of juicy rewards points on my credit cards that really add up over time.
Differences In The Average Credit Card Debt Reported
Now let's get back to the average credit card debt figures. ValuePenguin lists the average credit card debt per household at $5,700 and at $9,333 for average balance-carrying households.
According to TransUnion, the average credit card balance per consumer was $5,236 in 2Q2020 and $5,554 in 1Q2019.
Meanwhile, CNBC reports that only 10% of Americans have a monthly average credit card balance over $5,000.
Depends How You Slice It
So you can see that it's hard to figure out what's the right number when it comes to the average credit card debt per household and per consumer.
The figures vary a lot by source and by how the data is sliced and diced. One way to finding a better average credit card debt and spend number is to simply get more datapoints with a short four question survey below.
The impact on the amount of average revolving credit card debt per household is largely determined by income. You might have an astounding $15,000 in revolving credit card debt, but if you are making $1 million a year, who cares?
The more pertinent measure is average revolving monthly credit card debt to average monthly gross income.
What's confusing is that it's unclear whether people who pay off their credit card bills every month are also included in the average credit card debt per household by each source. After all, when I charge something on my card, I have interest free debt for 28-31 days, depending on the month, until I pay the bill off in full.
The solution is to simply calculate the average credit card spend a month to the average monthly gross income, and calculate the average revolving credit card debt a month to the average monthly gross income to get a more thorough picture.
My Average Credit Card Monthly Expenditure
I logged on to my credit card account to see how much I've been spending the past four months and here's what I found:
May – $3,001 (had to buy a new oven)
April – $1,940
March – $1,709
Feb – $1,910
My average monthly credit card expenditure between three cards is therefore $2,140 for the past four months.
I'm probably going to spend another $3,000 in the coming months for a trip to London. But, a lot of those expenses are going on my Chase Ink Business Cash corporate card given I'll be meeting several business partners.
$2,140 compares favorably to all the figures above for the average credit card debt per household of over $5200.
My average revolving credit card debt a month is $0 because I pay it off every month instead of paying for the usurious 17%+ rates.
I recommend you check out The Average Net Worth For The Above Average Person to inspire you to reduce spending and increase saving. And check out my Top Financial Products recommendations while you're at it.
The Median Household Income
Hence, my ratio for credit card spend to income is less than 21.4% ($2,140 / $10,000). And given my credit card spend accounts for 90% of all my expenditure excluding mortgages, and my primary mortgage debt is less than 25% of my monthly income, my savings rate is over 50%. Pretty straightforward.
My average monthly revolving credit card debt to income is 0 ($0/$10,00 = 0).
Calculate And Compare Your Own Numbers
Tabulating your monthly average credit card debt spend and average monthly revolving credit card debt and comparing it to the national average is a good exercise. Even for those will large revolving credit card debt, I'm hopeful because you generally can't have large credit card debt without a large income.
I believe the majority of folks who get into financial trouble have more of a spending problem than an income problem. Credit card spending is much more controllable than making more money as an employee given raises average 2% a year nationally and entrepreneurship is brutally difficult. Credit card expenditure, on the other hand, can swing wildly month to month.
Is there any wonder why the average American is facing a difficult retirement with the average monthly credit card debt surpassing monthly gross wages? It's impossible to save if you continuously owe more in credit card debt than you pull in a month.
Spend Less And Make More
If you can't make more money, cut spending. For those of you who can't cut spending, make more money. If you can't cut spending and can't make more money, then you are a contributor to the widening wealth gap. If you can cut spending and make more money, you're on the path to eventual financial freedom.
All is not lost however if you are carrying a balance on high interest rate credit cards. Consolidating your credit card debt onto one new 0% APR credit card through a balance transfer can help you get in control of your debt.
If you're unsure how to do that, check out this helpful guide on how to do a 0% APR credit card balance transfer and save money.
Additionally, utilizing a high rewards cash back credit card is another way to keep more money in your own pockets and out of the debt collectors hands.
Track Your Net Worth For Free
In order to grow your net worth, it's important to thoroughly understand the details of your net worth. People are spending more than they think and saving less than they think.
False beliefs add up to deleterious consequences over time as people wonder where all their money went. As soon as I started tracking my net worth through an Excel document 12 years ago, I was able to optimize my money for the greatest returns.
In 2012, I signed up for Personal Capital's free financial dashboard that tracks your net worth for you once you link all our accounts, analyzes your investment portfolio(s) for excessive fees, provides monthly cash flow analysis, and helps you forecast your retirement.
Personal Capital has greatly improved my ability to monitor all my accounts. My net worth, retirement planning, and financial health have all improved as a result. Try it free today!
Get An Awesome Rewards Credit Card
Check out the Chase Freedom Unlimited Rewards credit card. I use my Chase credit card for all my business and travel spending to get points for more free travel, insurance in case my bags are lost or my flight is stuck, and more insurance for defective products I buy and want to return.
Everybody should have a credit card for the free 30 day credit. Just make sure to pay off your credit card every month in full!
Check out some of the awesome benefits of the Chase Freedom Unlimited Rewards credit card:
- Great cash back percentage: Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases
- Annual fee: $0
- Sign up bonus: Get a $200 bonus after you spend $500 in the first 3 months
- Bonus cash back categories
- 5% cash back on travel purchased in the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal
- 3% cash back dining at restaurants and eligible delivery/takeout
- 3% cash back on eligible drugstore purchases
- Rewards don’t expire as long as your account is open.
- 0% APR for the first 15 months
- Credit score needed: good to excellent
- No minimums to redeem for cash back
For more nuanced personal finance content, join 50,000+ others and sign up for the free Financial Samurai newsletter. Financial Samurai is one of the largest independently-owned personal finance sites that started in 2009. I help people get rich and live the lifestyles they want.