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How much credit card debt does the average American have?
Laura Leavitt

Credit cards can seem innocent — a piece of plastic that lets you buy stuff online or split the bill at brunch without carrying cash. But they can quickly become a debt trap if you’re not careful. 

Americans now owe a record amount on their credit cards. Total credit card debt reached $1.13 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2023, according to the Federal Reserve

If you’re in credit card debt, you’re not alone – almost 170 million consumers carry a balance on their credit card, according to TransUnion

How does your debt stack up? Knowing how much you owe can empower you to create a plan to tackle it. 

How much credit card debt does the average person have? 

The average American has a credit card balance of $6,501, an all-time high, according to Experian. That’s an increase from $5,910 in 2022 and $5,221 in 2021. 

Inflation and higher interest rates have led many consumers to put more on their credit cards. A recent Bankrate survey found that 49% of cardholders are carrying a balance from month to month. 

“Credit cards are easy to get but hard to get rid of,” says April James, member solutions manager at Redstone Federal Credit Union. “On the one hand, credit cards let us spend money we don’t have. But if not managed properly, debt can derail consumer confidence and financial security.”

Credit card debt by age

The average credit card debt carried varies between different generations. Older Americans tend to carry more credit card debt than younger consumers. 

But why have the debt journeys of each generation tracked so differently over their lives? Here’s a look at the average credit card debt by generation, according to a 2023 Experian study. 

Generation Average credit card debt
Generation Z $3,148
Millennials $6,274
Generation X $8,870
Baby boomers $6,601
Silent Generation $3,434

Younger generations — specifically Gen Z — have had little time to accrue balances, keeping averages lower. 

Millennials and Gen Xers may have more financial obligations — including mortgages, children’s education costs, and aging parents. This may explain why average credit card debt is highest for those two age groups. 

James explains the increasing popularity of ‘buy now, pay later’ programs, especially among younger consumers, may contribute to the growth of credit card debt. 

“Buy now, pay later services are growing in popularity with Gen Z and Millennials because of their convenience,” says James. “Customers normally add more to their purchase when they know they aren’t paying the full amount upfront. When used over multiple platforms, that small payment will result in big payments and create a cycle of debt and possibly late fees.”

Credit card debt by state

Where you live also may impact how much credit card debt you have. Here’s a look at the states with the highest average credit card debt, according to a 2022 Experian study.

State Average credit card debt
Alaska $7,338
Washington, D.C. $6,904
Connecticut $6,825
New Jersey $6,819
Maryland $6,668

Metropolitan areas like Washington D.C., Connecticut, New Jersey, and Maryland all have higher-than-average debts. The higher cost of living in those regions may contribute to those higher balances.

The cost of carrying a balance

Why is carrying credit card debt so financially debilitating? The main culprit is interest rates. 

For example, let’s say your outstanding balance is $6,500 (equal to the average American), and your card’s APR is 20.75%, the average credit card interest rate. You’d owe around $112 in interest charges each month. 

Paying off your balance frees up that money for other financial goals like funding an emergency accountor saving more for retirement. 

If you only make the minimum payment on your card — often between 1%-3% of your balance, it could take decades to pay off. 

Using the same example above, if you only made the minimum payment, it would take you over 25 years to pay off your balance. In total, you would end up paying $17,250 — around $10,750 of which is interest. 

How to tackle credit card debt

If you’re struggling with credit card debt, don’t worry; you’re not alone. Many people face this challenge, but there are effective ways to tackle it. Here’s a step-by-step plan to pay down your debt.

    • Start by gathering all your credit card statements and understanding the full extent of your debt. Note each card’s outstanding balances, interest rates, and minimum monthly payments.

    • Develop a realistic budget for your income, expenses, and debt payments. Identify areas where you can reduce unnecessary spending and allocate more funds toward paying off your credit cards. Remember to prioritize your debt repayment in your budget.

    • Aim to pay more than the minimum payment whenever possible. By doing so, you’ll reduce the principal balance faster and save on interest payments.

    • If you have multiple credit cards, there are some options to pay off your debt. With the avalanche method, you first pay off the card with the highest interest rate while making minimum payments on other cards. With the snowball method, you pay off the smallest balance first, regardless of interest rates. Choose the strategy that aligns with your financial goals.

    • Contact your credit card companies and ask for a lower interest rate. This might not always work, but it’s worth a try. If you have a good payment history, they may be willing to reduce your rate, which will help you pay off your debt faster.

    • If you have a high-interest credit card balance, you might explore transferring it to a card with a lower interest rate or a promotional 0% APR period. Be cautious of transfer fees and ensure you can pay off the balance within the promotional period.

    • Consider picking up a side job or temporarily increasing your income. Using the additional money to pay off your credit card debt can accelerate your progress.

    • While paying off your credit cards, avoiding adding new charges is crucial. Cut back on unnecessary expenses, use cash or debit cards for purchases, and resist the temptation to overspend.

Bottom line

Clearing credit card debt takes time and effort, so it’s important to celebrate milestones along the way. Set achievable goals and reward yourself (within reason) when you reach them. This will help you stay motivated and committed to your debt repayment journey.

Remember, tackling credit card debt requires discipline and patience. Stay focused on your goals, make consistent payments, and proactively manage your finances. With determination and a solid plan, you’ll be on your way to a debt-free future.




Laura Leavitt is a personal finance writer who focuses on accessible, clear explanations of the complexities of daily financial life. Her writing has appeared in national and localized outlets, including Bankrate, CNET, Business Insider, Real Simple, and more. She is passionate about helping individuals start small and work toward their financial goals in a sustainable way. She hopes to make the intricate products and services available in the personal finance world more clear to those who read her work.

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