Americans’ Credit Card Debt

Oct 16, 2014 by

credit cardsI think we all enjoy comparing ourselves to the “average,” mainly because each of us knows we’re better than average, just like the children of Lake Wobegon! Ms. Money Counselor likes to look at statistics on net worth and other financial measures for people our age to give some context to how we’re doing and to accumulate evidence confirming her several financial Armageddon hypotheses. Because we’ve made mostly good money choices over the years and have been fortunate, usually her research helps her sleep a bit easier and at least for a few minutes relieves her anxiety about homelessness in her senior years, so I’m all for her investigations!

Americans Average Credit Card Debt

We don’t and never have carried balances from month to month on our credit cards, except on a few occasions when mis-firing synapses caused me to overlook accidentally a payment.

But according to a recent article on, 34% of Americans who have credit card accounts carry a balance from month to month. (The great news is that that’s down from 44% in 2009!). Check it out:

average credit card balance

An encouraging trend, or a result of Great Recession bankruptcies?

And here are other stats on average credit card balances from the same article that I think you’ll find interesting. How do you compare?

average credit card balance

Cost of Carrying a Credit Card Balance

From the last line in the table above, credit card accounts that typically carry balances over from month to month have an average balance of a pretty fat $7,743. Who knows what the the average APR is on these accounts, but let’s assume the current national average APR for new credit card accounts: 15%. Those figures translate to a monthly interest expense of nearly $100!

Now I know very well that many people who carry monthly credit card balances got into that costly predicament because of a layoff or uninsured medical expenses or other misfortune that exhausted their emergency fund, so I’m not here to lecture. (For those who, on the other hand, choose to carry monthly balances because they don’t subscribe to living below their means, they’ve got to resolve to stop doing that before anybody can help them!)

But no matter how you accumulated a big credit card balance, you can save yourself a lot of dough and improve your current and retirement lifestyle if you PAY IT OFF or DOWN! Money Counselor is loaded with resources to help you do that—you could start by exploring the Pay Down Debt category (see the left sidebar on the homepage)—but the main thing is just to get started! If the task seems too daunting, read this.

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