Credit Card Debt Study: Trends & Insights

Alina Comoreanu, Senior Researcher
Mar 9, 2020

Credit card debt statistics speak to the financial health of American households. They can also foreshadow over-borrowing bubbles, changes to lending standards, and other trends with the potential to impact our wallets.

Americans began 2019 owing more than $1 trillion in credit card debt. Although the forecast initially appeared brighter, thanks to consumers repaying $38.2 billion in credit card debt during Q1 2019, poor second-quarter results nearly erased that effort. U.S. consumers added $35.5 billion in new credit card debt during the second quarter of 2019 – the largest second-quarter build-up ever. And in the third and fourth quarters, total debt went up by another $21.5 billion and $57.9 billion, respectively. As a result, there was a $76.7 billion net increase in consumer credit card debt for 2019 overall.

WalletHub now projects an $85 billion net increase in credit card debt during 2020. Below, you can learn more about the current credit card debt landscape, including which cities owe the most and how that has changed, according to the latest data available from TransUnion and the Federal Reserve.

Main Findings

We ended 2019 with $76.7 billion in new credit card debt, and WalletHub projects an $85 billion increase in 2020.

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Outstanding credit card debt is at the second highest point since the end of 2008, after reaching an all-time high in Q4 2018.

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The $57.9 billion in credit card debt added during Q4 2019 is 30% higher than the post-Great Recession average for a fourth quarter.

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Since the end of the Great Recession, consumer performance has regressed on a year-over-year basis in 6 of every 10 quarters.

At 3.65% for Q4 2019, the credit card charge-off rate is rising year over year.

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Average Credit Card Debt per Household

Stat Q4 2019 Q4 2018 Change
Average Credit Card Debt per Household $9,070 $8,772 3%
Total Credit Card Debt $1,071B $1,032B 4%
Quarter Net Increase $57.9B $58B -0.17%

 

The average household’s credit card balance, at $9,070, is $1,050 below WalletHub’s projected breaking point.

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Credit Card Debt Increase by City

*99th Percentile = Biggest Paydown
*1st Percentile = Biggest Increase

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