Credit card debt in America is seeing an unprecedented rise. And not just in the total amount owed, but also in the interest being charged to cardholder accounts. Between record inflation in 2022 and the cost of living outpacing earnings, Americans are turning to credit to make ends meet.1,2
But credit card debt is more expensive today than in previous years because the Fed has increased interest rates in an effort to curb inflation. The increased reliance on credit coupled with high interest rates could lead Americans to dangerous debt levels that will take years to repay and account defaults resulting in credit damage.
We break down America’s credit card debt problem and how it compares to the debt levels of citizens in other countries.
Individual Credit Card Debt in America Averages $5,910
People reportedly saved money and spent less during the pandemic.3 Less spending, paused student loan payments, and stimulus checks, among other economic factors, led to lower credit card balances.
But individual card balances are trending upward again, with the average consumer credit card debt sitting at $5,910 in 2022. This is a 13.2% increase from the previous year.
|Q3 2021||Q3 2022||Change|
Increased debt levels remained consistent across all borrowers, no matter their credit scores or incomes. This trend reflects the state of the US economy and the financial pressure Americans are under.
A reported 64% of Americans, even those earning $100,000 per year or more, live paycheck to paycheck. Furthermore, in a survey of people who live paycheck to paycheck, 73% said they expect their financial situations to worsen in the next year thanks to inflation.4
Household Credit Card Debt in America Averages $9,654
The average American household consists of 2.5 people.5 That typically includes two adults capable of using credit, which means more opportunity to accrue credit card debt.
The average American household owes $9,654 as of the first quarter of 2023. Here’s how household credit card debt balances have changed from 2022 to 2023:
|Q1 2022||Q1 2023||Change|
It should come as no surprise that credit card delinquencies — defined as a payment made 30 or more days late — are also trending upward.6 And late payments come with their own challenges, including expensive late fees, penalty APRs of up to 36%, and lower credit scores.
Americans’ Average Credit Card Debt by State
The amount of credit card debt someone has is largely influenced by where they live. For example, the cost of living in states such as California and New York is much higher than it is in Idaho.
|State||Average Balance||State||Average Balance|
|New York||$9,165||South Carolina||$7,063|
|New Jersey||$9,044||North Carolina||$6,955|
Residents in Connecticut carry the most credit card debt, averaging $9,408. Residents in Kentucky carry the lowest average credit card debt at $5,408. That means Connecticuters owe an average of 74% more on their cards than Kentuckians.
Also interesting is that the four states with the highest average card balances are in the Northeastern US. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the consumer price index, which reflects the cost of consumer goods and services, in the Northeast is up 3.1% from May of 2022.7
Americans’ Average Credit Card Debt by Age
The blanket increase in credit card balances is affecting consumers of all ages. Generation Z — those born between 1997 and 2012 — saw the greatest increase in their average card balances between 2021 and 2022. The Silent Generation — those born between 1928 and 1945 — saw the smallest average increase in their credit card balances.
Gen X has the unfortunate designation as the generation with the highest average card debt, while the youngest adult generation — Gen Z — has the least.
As reflected in this data, debt levels typically peak when consumers are middle-aged. This is typically because they’re earning and spending more during this time, whereas younger generations may still be living with their parents to manage inflated housing costs and just beginning their careers.
Americans’ Total Credit Card Debt Over the Years
The total outstanding credit card debt in the US has had a yo-yo effect over the years. It tends to rise and fall with the economy. For example, you’ll notice a spike in card debt around the Great Recession, when budgets tightened and reliance on credit increased.
Outstanding credit card debt in 2023 is at its highest level since the Fed began tracking revolving debt balances.
|Year||Card Debt |
|Year||Card Debt |
Another interesting trend is that credit card balances remained the same in Q1 of 2023 as in Q4 of 2022.
“Consumers typically build up more credit-card debt at the end of the year, during the holiday season, and then reduce those balances at the start of the following year, sometimes with the help of tax refunds. But for the first time in 20 years, that wasn’t the case this year, suggesting some households are under strain from higher prices and may be relying on credit cards to maintain their spending.” — Fortune magazine8
How Americans’ Credit Card Debt Compares to That of Other Countries
America isn’t the only economy reeling. Canadian consumer debt has hit a new record high in the first quarter of 2023, and the average credit card balance was $2,121 (CAD) in the third quarter of 2022.9,10
Here’s what the average credit card balance looks like in the world’s 10 largest economies, as determined by their GDP, converted to USD:
While some of these balances may seem small, remember that lending laws vary by country. For example, credit card interest rates in Brazil average 450% — akin to a payday loan in the US.11
Another consideration is wages and the cost of living around the world. The average income in India in 2021 was $2,150 (USD) per year.12
Meanwhile, fewer than 40% of citizens in France and China even own a credit card, compared with nearly 67% of Americans.13
11 Steps Americans Can Take to Curb Credit Card Debt
You can take several proactive steps to curb credit card debt in the face of soaring debt levels, escalating interest rates, and mounting inflation. Here are some actionable strategies:
1. Create a realistic budget: Start by assessing your income, expenses, and debt obligations. Develop a comprehensive budget that prioritizes essential expenses while allocating a portion of your income toward debt repayment.
2. Minimize unnecessary expenses: Identify discretionary spending habits and cut back on non-essential purchases. Prioritize needs over wants to free up additional funds you can put toward your debt payoff goals.
3. Negotiate lower interest rates: Contact credit card companies and request a reduction in interest rates. Highlight your responsible payment history and mention competitive rates offered by other issuers. Lower interest rates can significantly reduce the overall cost of your debt.
4. Use balance transfers: Explore balance transfer credit cards that offer low or 0% introductory interest rates. By transferring high-interest balances to these cards, you can save on interest charges during the promotional period, allowing more of your payments to go toward reducing the principal debt.
5. Prioritize debt repayment: Adopt a debt repayment strategy that aligns with your financial goals. Two popular approaches are the avalanche method and the snowball method. The avalanche method involves paying off high-interest debt first, while the snowball method focuses on tackling small balances initially for motivation.
6. Increase monthly payments: Allocate a larger portion of your income toward credit card debt repayment. You can expedite the principal reduction and save on interest charges over time by paying more than the minimum due.
7. Consider debt consolidation: Explore options for consolidating high-interest credit card debt into a lower-interest loan or a balance transfer credit card. Consolidation can simplify debt management and potentially reduce interest costs.
8. Seek credit counseling: Consult with nonprofit credit counseling agencies that offer free or low-cost assistance. These organizations can provide personalized advice, help negotiate with creditors, and offer debt management plans.
9. Avoid incurring additional debt: Stop charging your credit cards and instead rely on cash or debit cards for purchases. This discipline will prevent further debt accumulation and allow you to focus on paying off your existing balances.
10. Boost your income: Seek ways to increase your income, such as taking on a part-time job, freelancing, or exploring side gigs. You can apply the additional earnings to debt repayment and accelerate your progress.
11. Build an emergency fund: Establish an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses, reducing the likelihood of relying on credit cards for emergencies.
Remember, successfully curbing credit card debt requires discipline, perseverance, and a long-term commitment to financial responsibility. It may take time, but by implementing these strategies, Americans can make significant progress toward reducing their debt burden.
The main findings of this data are:
- Americans owe $986 billion in credit card debt — the highest amount on record
- Individuals owe an average of $5,910
- Households owe an average of $9,654
- Residents of Connecticut have the highest average balance at $9,408
- Residents of Kentucky have the lowest average balance at $5,408
- Generation X has the highest average credit card balance at $8,134, up 15% from the previous year
- The Silent Generation has the lowest average credit card balance at $3,316, up 4.4% from the previous year
- Americans owe more credit card debt than citizens of any other country with leading economies