Credit Cards

Average Number of Credit Cards Per Person 2020

EPF Last Update: June 3, 2020
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ElitePersonalFinance conducted a study on average numbers of credit cards per person. We found that people have on average 4 credit cards. Last year, this number was 2.5, which means an increase of 60%!

Period: Average # of Credit Cards: Average Credit Card Balance: Average Credit Card Limit:
2019 4 $6,194 $22,751

Average Number of Credit Cards per Person 2020: Statistics and Key Findings

The number of average credit cards that American own has increased with 60%. From 2.5 last year to 4 this year.

The average credit card balance has increased with 44%. From $4,293 to $6,194.

As well, 61% of consumers own at least one credit card – an increase of 1.6% compared to the same period last year.

The average limit on credit cards raise from  $20,265 to $22,751, which means an increase of 2,486‬ or 12.2%.

At the state-level – referencing 2017 figures – the average number of credit cards per person ranges from 2.57 to 3.49 with the average balance ranging from $5,155 to $8,315.

At the state-level, residents in New Jersey (3.49), New York (3.34) and Rhode Island (3.26) own the highest average number of credit cards, while residents in Mississippi (2.57), Iowa (2.67) and Alabama (2.69) own the lowest average numbers of credit cards.

At the state-level, residents in Alaska ($8,315), Connecticut ($7,258) and Virginia ($7,161) carry the highest average credit card balance, while residents in Iowa ($5,155), Wisconsin ($5,363) and Mississippi ($5,421) carry the lowest average credit card balance.

Iowa and Mississippi also rank at or near the bottom of both categories, indicating residents in these regions rely less on credit card debt to finance their lifestyle.

When isolating 2017 figures, 14 states rank above the national average when it comes to average credit cards per person, while 20 states rank above the national average when it comes to the average credit card balance.

When decomposing the data by age-bracket – as age increases, the average number of credit cards per person and the average credit card balance tends to increase.

Borrower’s ages 50 to 70 hold the highest average number of credit cards (3.5) and have the highest average credit card balance ($7,750). Conversely, borrower’s ages 18 to 21 hold the lowest average number of credit cards (1.4) and have the lowest average credit card balance ($2,047).

In the Federal Reserve’s latest Survey of Household Economics and Decision Making (SHED), researchers found that 83% of adults own at least one credit card.

Of the 1 in 10 adults who applied for a credit card from January 2017 to May 2018, 34% of them were either denied or offered less credit than they originally requested.

87% of White respondents own at least one credit card, while 70% of Black respondents own at least one credit card.

95% of respondents with a bachelor’s degree or more own at least one credit card, while 73% of respondents with a high school diploma or less own at least one credit card.

Nearly 40% of Black respondents with an annual income of less than $40,000 believe their credit card application would be denied, while 25% of White respondents feared the same result.

9% of White respondents with an annual income of $40,000 to $100,000 believe their credit card application would be denied, while 16% of both Blacks and Hispanics feared the same result.

Somewhat surprising, 9% of Black respondents with an annual income of more than $100,000 still felt their credit card application would be denied.

Average Number of Credit Cards

Overview: 2018: 2019:
Average Number of Credit Cards 2.5 4
Average Credit Card Balance $4,293 $6,194
Average Limit on Credit Cards $22,751
Percentage of Americans With a Credit Card 59.4% 61%
Average Credit Card Account Age 87 months

The number of average credit cards that American own has increased with 60%. From 2.5 last year to 4 this year.

The average credit card balance has increased with 44%. From $4,293 to $6,194.

As well, 61% of consumers own at least one credit card – an increase of 1.6% compared to the same period last year.

The average limit on credit cards raise from  $20,265 to $22,751, which means an increase of 2,486‬ or 12.2%.

Average Number of Credit Cards by State

At the state-level – referencing 2017 figures – the average number of credit cards per person ranges from 2.57 to 3.49 with the average balance ranging from $5,155 to $8,315. Residents in New Jersey (3.49), New York (3.34) and Rhode Island (3.26) own the highest average number of credit cards, while residents in Mississippi (2.57), Iowa (2.67) and Alabama (2.69) own the lowest average numbers of credit cards.

Isolating outstanding debt, residents in Alaska ($8,315), Connecticut ($7,258) and Virginia ($7,161) carry the highest average credit card balance, while residents in Iowa ($5,155), Wisconsin ($5,363) and Mississippi ($5,421) carry the lowest average credit card balance.

As well, with Iowa and Mississippi at or near the bottom of both categories, the data indicates residents in these regions rely less on credit card debt to finance their lifestyle.

State Average VantageScore Average # of Credit Cards Average Balance on Credit Cards
Alaska 668 2.9 $8,515
Alabama 654 2.69 $5,961
Arkansas 657 2.76 $5,660
Arizona 669 3.04 $6,389
California 680 3.23 $6,481
Colorado 688 3.13 $6,718
Connecticut 690 3.23 $7,258
District of Columbia 670 2.98 $6,963
Delaware 672 3.13 $6,366
Florida 668 3.19 $6,388
Georgia 654 2.97 $6,675
Hawaii 693 3.25 $6,981
Iowa 695 2.67 $5,155
Idaho 681 2.88 $5,817
Illinois 683 3.14 $6,410
Indiana 667 2.77 $5,581
Kansas 680 2.82 $6,082
Kentucky 663 2.78 $5,555
Louisiana 650 2.77 $6,074
Massachusetts 699 3.21 $6,327
Maryland 672 3.16 $7,043
Maine 689 2.91 $5,784
Michigan 677 2.91 $5,622
Minnesota 709 2.97 $5,911
Missouri 675 2.91 $5,897
Mississippi 647 2.57 $5,421
Montana 689 2.87 $5,845
North Carolina 666 2.95 $6,117
North Dakota 697 2.9 $5,511
Nebraska 695 2.83 $5,630
New Hampshire 701 3.1 $6,490
New Jersey 686 3.49 $7,151
New Mexico 659 2.79 $6,317
Nevada 655 3.18 $6,401
New York 688 3.34 $6,671
Ohio 678 3.02 $5,843
Oklahoma 656 2.71 $6,296
Oregon 688 2.95 $6,012
Pennsylvania 687 3.07 $6,146
Rhode Island 687 3.26 $6,375
South Carolina 657 2.9 $6,157
South Dakota 700 2.8 $5,692
Tennessee 662 2.77 $5,975
Texas 656 3.06 $6,902
Utah 683 2.95 $5,960
Virginia 680 3.08 $7,161
Vermont 702 2.86 $5,924
Washington 693 2.99 $6,592
Wisconsin 696 2.8 $5,363
West Virginia 658 2.76 $5,547
Wyoming 678 2.81 $6,245

Across the United States, the average number of credit cards per person came in at 3.1, with borrowers holding an average balance of $6,354. Contrasted with state data, 14 states rank above the national average when it comes to average credit cards per person, while 20 states rank above the national average when it comes to the average credit card balance.

Average Number of Credit Cards by Age

Demonstrating a linear trend across the first four age-groups, as age increases, the average number of credit cards per person and the average credit card balance tends to increase.

Check out the table below:

Silent Generation Baby Boomers Gen X Gen Y Gen Z
Average VantageScore 729 703 658 638 634
Average Number of Credit Cards 3.0 3.5 3.2 2.5 1.4
Average Balance on Credit Cards $4,613 $7,550 $7,750 $4,315 $2,047
Average Number of Retail Cards 2.3 2.7 2.6 2.0 1.5
Average Balance on Retail Cards $1,354 $1,931 $2,122 $1,626 $770
Average Mortgage Debt $156,705 $188,828 $231,774 $198,302 $160,411
Average Non-Mortgage Debt $15,161 $27,513 $30,334 $22,784 $6,963
18 to 21 22 to 35 36 to 50 51 to 70 71+
Average # of Credit Cards 1.4 2.5 3.2 3.5 3.0
Average Credit Card Balance $2,047 $4,315 $7,750 $7,550 $4,613

Average Number of Credit Cards by Age

Average Credit Card Balance by Age

Borrower’s ages 50 to 70 hold the highest average number of credit cards (3.5) and have the highest average credit card balance ($7,750). As this demographic is made up of baby boomers, the result isn’t all that surprising. Entering the workforce during periods of high job security and high rates of economic growth, borrowers in this age group were able to accumulate a significant asset-base — which allows for more debt service.

Conversely, borrower’s ages 18 to 21 hold the lowest average number of credit cards (1.4) and have the lowest average credit card balance ($2,047). Saddled with high student loan balances and lacking an established credit history, it’s often more difficult for borrowers in this age group to qualify for a credit card. As such, these borrowers make up a smaller slice of the overall pie.

Credit Card Ownership by Income

Through its annual Survey of Household Economics and Decision Making (SHED), the Federal Reserve asks respondents various questions about their credit practices, spending activity and overall financial well-being. In the latest report – spanning from January 2017 to May of 2018 – researchers found that 83% of adults own at least one credit card. The data also shows that as income increases, credit card ownership increases as well.

Check out statistics below:

Annual Income: % Who Own At Least One Credit Card:
< $40,000 65%
$40,000 – $100,000 91%
> $100,000 97%

Average Credit Card Ownership by Income

Interestingly enough – in 2017 – four in 10 adults applied for some form of credit, with 25% of applications submitted for credit cards. Moreover, of the 25% who submitted credit card applications, 34% of them were either denied or offered less credit than they originally requested.

Consistent with the findings above, lower income individuals also had their applications denied at a much higher rate. For those earning less than $40,000 per year, 39% were denied credit. Conversely, for those earning more than $100,000 per year, 10% were denied credit.

Credit Card Ownership by Race

When decomposing the numbers by race, researchers found 87% of White respondents own at least one credit card, while 70% of Black respondents own at least one credit card.

Race: % Who Own At Least One Credit Card:
White 87%
Black 70%
Hispanic 76%

Credit Card Ownership By Race

Supported by income findings above, one’s annual salary has a significant impact on whether they’re approved or denied credit. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, White men earn $267 more in median weekly income than their Black male counterparts, while White women earn $163 more in median weekly income than their Black female counterparts. This earnings divergence helps explain some of the racial disparity in credit card ownership.

On the flip side, Black men earn $15 more in median weekly income than their Hispanic male counterparts, while Black women earn $37 more in median weekly income than their Hispanic female counterparts. While these statistics don’t support the trend, income is still widely considered a leading indicator of credit card ownership.

Credit Card Ownership by Education

When zeroing in on education levels, you can see that as education increases, credit card ownership increases as well. Considering income plays a pivotal role, it’s not surprising that respondents with post-secondary education use credit cards more frequently.

Education: % Who Own At Least One Credit Card:
High School Diploma or Less 73%
Some College or Associate Degree 81%
Bachelor’s Degree or More 95%

Credit Card Ownership By Education

Confidence That a Credit Card Application Would be Approved: Income and Race

Perceptions often play role in one’s ability to obtain credit. Nearly 40% of Black respondents with an annual income of less than $40,000 believe their credit card application would be denied, while only 25% of White respondents feared the same result.

As we mentioned above, as income increases, access to credit increases as well. For respondents with an annual income of $40,000 to $100,000, only 9% of Whites believe their credit card application would be denied, while 16% of both Blacks and Hispanics feared the same result.

Confident: Not Confident: Don’t Know:
< $40,000
White 65% 25% 10%
Black 47% 38% 15%
Hispanic 57% 30% 12%
$40,000 – $100,000
White 89% 9% 2%
Black 80% 16% 4%
Hispanic 78% 16% 6%
> $100,000
White 96% 2% 1%
Black 86% 9% 4%
Hispanic 95% 4% 0%

Confidence That A Credit Card Application Would Be Approved: Income And Race (< $40,000)

Confidence That A Credit Card Application Would Be Approved: Income And Race ($40,000 – $100,000)

Confidence That A Credit Card Application Would Be Approved: Income And Race (> $100,000)

As a somewhat surprising result – for respondents with an annual income greater than $100,000 – 9% of Black participants still felt their credit card application would be denied.

Credit Card Owners Who Don’t Pay Their Balance In-Full Each Month

Citing payment history, almost half of respondents claim they never carry a positive credit card balance from one period to the next. Contrast that with 27% of respondents who admit they carry a positive balance most of the time.

Happened Once: Happens Some of the Time: Happens Most of the Time: Never Happened:
6% 21% 27% 45%

With American credit card debt currently sitting at 799 billion and total revolving debt currently sitting at over 1 trillion, banks and lending institutions are surely happy with the results. We estimate that American FDIC-institutions earned roughly 108 billion in credit card interest in 2018. But while the Federal Reserve’s SHED survey implies that 48% of credit card balances rollover each month, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has this figure closer to 71%.

How We Conducted The Study

To present the most accurate assessment of the average number of credit cards per person across the United States, we analyzed data from Experian State of Credit Cards and 2017 State of Credit. Next we decomposed data from the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Household Economics and Decision Making (SHED). Its latest annual report – covering periods from January 2017 to May 2018 – conducts research on various topics such as credit access, spending activity and consumers’ financial well-being.

Conclusion

Supported by the findings above, income plays a crucial role in one’s ability to obtain credit. States with the highest median income per capita also tend to have the highest average number of credit cards per person. Moreover – at the individual level – 97% of borrowers with an annual income of more than $100,000 own at least one credit card.

But while income is a leading indicator of credit card ownership, perceptions also play a role. Across the board – by race, income or both – Black respondents were less confident than Whites and Hispanics in their ability to obtain a credit card. So while American credit card debt continues to rise – surpassing the highs we saw during the 2008 financial crisis – it will be interesting to see how these trends play out in the future.

Sources
Experian: State of Credit Cards

Experian: State of Credit

Federal Reserve Survey of Household Economics and Decision Making (SHED)

Archives 2019

Average Number of Credit Cards by State

At the state-level – referencing 2017 figures – the average number of credit cards per person ranges from 2.57 to 3.49 with the average balance ranging from $5,155 to $8,315. Residents in New Jersey (3.49), New York (3.34) and Rhode Island (3.26) own the highest average number of credit cards, while residents in Mississippi (2.57), Iowa (2.67) and Alabama (2.69) own the lowest average numbers of credit cards.

Isolating outstanding debt, residents in Alaska ($8,315), Connecticut ($7,258) and Virginia ($7,161) carry the highest average credit card balance, while residents in Iowa ($5,155), Wisconsin ($5,363) and Mississippi ($5,421) carry the lowest average credit card balance.

As well, with Iowa and Mississippi at or near the bottom of both categories, the data indicates residents in these regions rely less on credit card debt to finance their lifestyle.

State: Average # of Credit Cards: Average Credit Card Balance:
New Jersey 3.49 $7,151
New York 3.34 $6,671
Rhode Island 3.26 $6,375
Hawaii 3.25 $6,981
Connecticut 3.23 $7,258
California 3.23 $6,481
Massachusetts 3.21 $6,327
Florida 3.19 $6,388
Nevada 3.18 $6,401
Maryland 3.16 $7,043
Illinois 3.14 $6,410
Colorado 3.13 $6,718
Delaware 3.13 $6,366
New Hampshire 3.10 $6,490
Virginia 3.08 $7,161
Pennsylvania 3.07 $6,146
Texas 3.06 $6,902
Arizona 3.04 $6,389
Ohio 3.02 $5,843
Washington 2.99 $6,592
District of Columbia (DC) 2.98 $6,963
Georgia 2.97 $6,675
Minnesota 2.97 $5,911
North Carolina 2.95 $6,117
Oregon 2.95 $6,012
Utah 2.95 $5,690
North Dakota 2.95 $5,511
Missouri 2.91 $5,897
Maine 2.91 $5,784
Michigan 2.91 $5,622
Alaska 2.90 $8,315
South Carolina 2.90 $6,157
Idaho 2.88 $5,817
Montana 2.87 $5,845
Vermont 2.86 $5,924
Nebraska 2.83 $5,630
Kansas 2.82 $6,082
Wyoming 2.81 $6,245
South Dakota 2.80 $5,692
Wisconsin 2.80 $5,363
New Mexico 2.79 $6,317
Kentucky 2.78 $5,555
Louisiana 2.77 $6,074
Tennessee 2.77 $5,975
Indiana 2.77 $5,581
Arkansas 2.76 $5,660
West Virginia 2.76 $5,547
Oklahoma 2.71 $6,296
Alabama 2.69 $5,961
Iowa 2.67 $5,155
Mississippi 2.57 $5,421
2017 National Average: 3.1 $6,354

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