The average credit card balance per person in the United States was $6,194 in 2019—an increase of 3% compared to 2018, according to Experian's annual Consumer Credit Review.
Credit card debt is a common issue in the U.S. More than two-thirds of Americans have credit cards, and it's the fastest-growing type of debt in the U.S. after personal loans. American consumers ended 2019 with a total of $4.2 trillion in debt not related to housing—much of which can be attributed to credit cards.
Credit card debt is the portion of your credit card balance that you have not paid off. It's also considered revolving debt. This type of debt usually involves accounts that allow you to carry a debit balance and have predetermined credit limits, variable interest rates, and payments that are calculated as a percentage of the unpaid balance.
States With the Most and Least Average Credit Card Debt
The average amount of credit card debt that people have can vary based on location.
People living in Alaska had the most credit card debt in 2019, with an average of $8,026 per person. Residents of New Jersey had the second-highest amount of average credit card debt, at $7,084, followed by Connecticut at $7,082.
The state with the least amount of average credit card debt per person in 2019 was Iowa, at $4,744. Wisconsin had the next to last, with an average of $4,908, followed by Mississippi at $5,134.
Causes of Credit Card Debt
Credit card debt isn't just a result of careless spending and shopping, although those can be contributing factors.
Many people in the U.S. build up credit card debt because they're having trouble covering their basic living expenses and bills.
Many people reach for their credit cards to help them pay unexpected medical bills and unavoidable health care costs.
Daily Living Expenses
Some people don't earn enough to cover the cost of living, so they need to pay for things like groceries and monthly bills with credit cards—and often can't pay off their monthly statement in full.
Home and Car Repairs
A car can break down unexpectedly, or a leaky pipe or roof can cause damage. These are often a cause for people to pull out the credit card, especially if they aren't prepared with an emergency savings account.
Vacation and Shopping
People who earn more money tend to carry higher balances on their credit cards for things like shopping and traveling because they tend to have higher credit limits. On top of that, many retailers offer store credit cards as a convenience to their customers, making it even easier to rack up credit card debt while shopping online or in-person.
Interest can start to build when people carry balances on their credit cards, making debt situations even worse. According to Experian, in 2019 the average American household carried $6,194 in credit card debt. Meanwhile, according to The Balance's June 2020 Average Credit Card Interest report, the average credit card interest rate stood at 20.09%. That means households in the U.S. can expect pay an average of around $1,250.00 in credit card interest charges this year.
One quick way to tally up what you're paying in interest every year is to plug your credit card balance and interest rate into our loan calculator:
Credit Card Debt and Credit Scores
Credit card debt doesn't always mean a lower credit score—especially for people with accounts in good standing.
Even though the average amount of credit card debt in the U.S. increased from 2018 to 2019, so did the average credit score. The average FICO score was 701 in 2018 and rose to 703 in 2019. And the average FICO score for people with credit cards in 2019 was 727—which is considered very good.
Many factors beyond debt go into calculating a credit score, including payment history, length of time using credit, percentage of spending limit used, credit mix, and the number of new credit accounts or inquiries.
In general, it's best to use less than 30% of your credit limit to avoid negatively impacting your credit score.
If someone has the average $6,194 of credit card debt but has a $7,000 spending limit, then it's likely that their credit score will be lowered because they're using a large percentage of their limit. On the other hand, if another person has the same $6,194 in credit card debt but has a $40,000 spending limit, then it's likely that their score will not be impacted too negatively by this debt.