Average Number of Credit Cards Per Person 2019 - Elite Personal Finance
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Average Number of Credit Cards Per Person 2019

EPF April 30, 2019
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As credit card debt across the United States continues to rise and currently sits at 799 billion – in 2018 – the average number of credit cards per person and the average credit card balance actually declined. In 2017, Americans held an average of 3.1 credit cards per person with an average balance of $6,354.

Contrast that with the numbers below:

 

Period:Average # of Credit Cards:Average Credit Card Balance:Average Credit Card Limit:
2018:Q32.5$4,293$20,265

 

With the data showing a $2,061 reduction in the average credit card balance, the figures seem to present a conflicting narrative. However, below the surface, while the average credit card balance declined in 2018, the number of outstanding borrowers continues to rise.

Using the latest data from Experian’s State of Credit Cards and State of Credit 2017, we dissected the numbers on aggregate, by state and by age. Next, we analyzed data from the Federal Reserve’s latest Survey of Household Economics and Decision Making (SHED), which conducts research on topics such as access to credit, spending activity and consumers’ financial well-being.

Average Number of Credit Cards Per Person 2019: Statistics and Key Findings

The average number of credit cards per person – as of 2018:Q3 – is 2.5, with borrowers carrying an average credit card balance of $4,293.

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 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 Jersey3.49$7,151
New York3.34$6,671
Rhode Island3.26$6,375
Hawaii3.25$6,981
Connecticut3.23$7,258
California3.23$6,481
Massachusetts3.21$6,327
Florida3.19$6,388
Nevada3.18$6,401
Maryland3.16$7,043
Illinois3.14$6,410
Colorado3.13$6,718
Delaware3.13$6,366
New Hampshire3.10$6,490
Virginia3.08$7,161
Pennsylvania3.07$6,146
Texas3.06$6,902
Arizona3.04$6,389
Ohio3.02$5,843
Washington2.99$6,592
District of Columbia (DC)2.98$6,963
Georgia2.97$6,675
Minnesota2.97$5,911
North Carolina2.95$6,117
Oregon2.95$6,012
Utah2.95$5,690
North Dakota2.95$5,511
Missouri2.91$5,897
Maine2.91$5,784
Michigan2.91$5,622
Alaska2.90$8,315
South Carolina2.90$6,157
Idaho2.88$5,817
Montana2.87$5,845
Vermont2.86$5,924
Nebraska2.83$5,630
Kansas2.82$6,082
Wyoming2.81$6,245
South Dakota2.80$5,692
Wisconsin2.80$5,363
New Mexico2.79$6,317
Kentucky2.78$5,555
Louisiana2.77$6,074
Tennessee2.77$5,975
Indiana2.77$5,581
Arkansas2.76$5,660
West Virginia2.76$5,547
Oklahoma2.71$6,296
Alabama2.69$5,961
Iowa2.67$5,155
Mississippi2.57$5,421
2017 National Average:3.1$6,354

 

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:

 

18 to 2122 to 3536 to 50 51 to 70 71+
Average # of Credit Cards1.42.53.23.53.0
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 ownerships increases as well.

Check out statistics below:

 

Annual Income:% Who Own At Least One Credit Card:
< $40,00065%
$40,000 – $100,00091%
> $100,00097%

 

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:
White87%
Black70%
Hispanic76%

 

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 Less73%
Some College or Associate Degree81%
Bachelor’s Degree or More95%

 

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
White65%25%10%
Black47%38%15%
Hispanic57%30%12%
$40,000 – $100,000
White89%9%2%
Black80%16%4%
Hispanic78%16%6%
> $100,000
White96%2%1%
Black86%9%4%
Hispanic95%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’s 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.

As well, our study uses the most up-to-date statistics as of April 30, 2019.

 

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 2017

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

Elite Personal Finance

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