Average Number of Credit Cards Per Person 2021

ElitePersonalFinance
Last Update: July 12, 2021 Credit Cards Studies
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Credit cards have a number of benefits. They are one of the most powerful credit builder tools, help you build trust in your issuer, and give you money to spend when you want.

Let’s now see how many credit cards Americans have on average.

ElitePersonalFinance conducted a complete study on the average number of credit cards per person in the U.S. in 2021.

Average Number of Credit Cards per Person 2021: Statistics and Key Findings

The average number of credit cards per person in America is 3.0. Last year it was 3.07, which makes a decrease of 2.3%.

The average credit card balance drops from $6,629 to $5,897. This makes a drop of $732, or 11%.

The number of credit card accounts is 497M before it was 486M.

By State:

Top 5 states with the highest average number of credit cards per person:

  • New Jersey: 3.49
  • New York: 3.34
  • Rhode Island: 3.26
  • Hawaii: 3.25
  • California: 3.23

Top 5 states with the lowest average number of credit cards per person:

  • Mississippi: 2.57
  • Iowa: 2.67
  • Alabama: 2.69
  • Oklahoma: 2.71
  • Arkansas: 2.76

By Age:

Baby Boomers hold the highest average number of credit cards of 3.5.

Generation Z holds the lowest average number of credit cards of 1.4.

Average Number of Credit Cards Per Person 2021: Charts, Graph, Analysis

Average Number of Credit Cards in America

Segment: 2017: 2018: 2019: 2020:
Avg. Number of Credit Cards 3.06 3.04 3.07 3.0
Avg. Credit Card Balance $6,354 $6,506 $6,629 $5,897

The average number of credit cards that Americans own is 3. Last year it was 3.07, which make a decrease of 2.3%.

If we compare 2019 – 2018, we will see a rise from 3.04 to 3.07, which is 1%.

After a constant rise till 2019, the average credit card balance, because of the COVID, drop for the first time. Now it is $5,897. Before, it was $6,629. This makes a drop of $732, or 11%.

Total Number of Credit Card Accounts in America

Year: Existing Accounts:
2010 359M
2011 357M
2012 372M
2013 379M
2014 400M
2015 401M
2016 430M
2017 459M
2018 465M
2019 486M
2020 497M

In 2020, 12 million new accounts were open. Although this is still a high number, compared to 2019, this number was 21 million. This means that, because of the COVID, Americans created 9 million fewer accounts.

However, we always see a growth in the new credit cards opened.

Average Number of Credit Cards by State

State: Average Number of Credit Cards:
Alabama 2.69
Alaska 2.9
Arkansas 2.76
Arizona 3.04
California 3.23
Colorado 3.13
Connecticut 3.23
District of Columbia 2.98
Delaware 3.13
Florida 3.19
Georgia 2.97
Hawaii 3.25
Iowa 2.67
Idaho 2.88
Illinois 3.14
Indiana 2.77
Kansas 2.82
Kentucky 2.78
Louisiana 2.77
Massachusetts 3.21
Maryland 3.16
Maine 2.91
Michigan 2.91
Minnesota 2.97
Missouri 2.91
Mississippi 2.57
Montana 2.87
North Carolina 2.95
North Dakota 2.9
Nebraska 2.83
New Hampshire 3.1
New Jersey 3.49
New Mexico 2.79
Nevada 3.18
New York 3.34
Ohio 3.02
Oklahoma 2.71
Oregon 2.95
Pennsylvania 3.07
Rhode Island 3.26
South Carolina 2.9
South Dakota 2.8
Tennessee 2.77
Texas 3.06
Utah 2.95
Virginia 3.08
Vermont 2.86
Washington 2.99
Wisconsin 2.8
West Virginia 2.76
Wyoming 2.81

Top 5 states with the highest average number of credit cards per person:

  • New Jersey: 3.49
  • New York: 3.34
  • Rhode Island: 3.26
  • Hawaii: 3.25
  • California: 3.23

Top 5 states with the lowest average number of credit cards per person:

  • Mississippi: 2.57
  • Iowa: 2.67
  • Alabama: 2.69
  • Oklahoma: 2.71
  • Arkansas: 2.76

Average Number of Credit Cards by Age

Demonstrating a linear trend across the first four age groups, as age increases, the average number of credit cards per person and the average credit card balance tend to increase.

Check out the table below:

Generation: Silent Generation: Baby Boomers: Generation X: Generation Y: Generation Z:
Average Number of Credit Cards 3.0 3.5 3.2 2.5 1.4

Baby Boomers hold the highest average number of credit cards of 3.5. As this demographic is made up of baby boomers, the result isn’t all that surprising. Entering the workforce during periods of high job security and high economic growth rates, borrowers in this age group could accumulate a significant asset-base, allowing for more debt service.

Generation Z holds the lowest average number of credit cards of 1.4. Saddled with high student loan balances and lacking an established credit history, it’s often more difficult for borrowers in this age group to qualify for a credit card. As such, these borrowers make up a smaller slice of the overall pie.

Credit Card Ownership by Income

Through its annual Survey of Household Economics and Decision Making (SHED), the Federal Reserve asks respondents various questions about their credit practices, spending activity, and overall financial well-being. The study found 83% of adults own at least one credit card. The data also shows that as income increases, credit card ownership increases as well.

Check out the statistics below:

Annual Income: % of People Who Own At Least One Credit Card:
< $40k 65%
$40k – $100k 91%
> $100k 97%

Interestingly enough, four in 10 adults applied for some form of credit, with 25% of applications submitted for credit cards. Moreover, of the 25% who submitted credit card applications, 34% were either denied or offered less credit than originally requested.

Consistent with the findings above, lower-income individuals also had their applications denied at a much higher rate. For those earning less than $40,000 per year, 39% were denied credit. Conversely, for those earning more than $100,000 per year, 10% were denied credit.

Credit Card Ownership by Race

When decomposing the numbers by race, researchers found 87% of White respondents own at least one credit card, while 70% of Black respondents own at least one credit card.

Race: % of People Who Own At Least One Credit Card:
White 87%
Black 70%
Hispanic 76%

Supported by income findings above, one’s annual salary significantly impacts whether they’re approved or denied credit. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, White men earn $267 more in median weekly income than their Black male counterparts. In contrast, White women earn $163 more in median weekly income than their Black female counterparts. This earnings divergence helps explain some of the racial disparities in credit card ownership.

On the flip side, Black men earn $15 more in median weekly income than their Hispanic male counterparts, while Black women earn $37 more in median weekly income than their Hispanic female counterparts. While these statistics don’t support the trend, income is still widely considered a leading indicator of credit card ownership.

Credit Card Ownership by Education

When zeroing in on education levels, you can see that credit card ownership increases as education increases. Considering income plays a pivotal role, it’s not surprising that respondents with post-secondary education use credit cards more frequently.

Education: % of People Who Own At Least One Credit Card:
High School Diploma or Less 73%
Some College or Associate Degree 81%
Bachelor’s Degree or More 95%

Confidence That a Credit Card Application Would be Approved: Income and Race

Perceptions often play a role in one’s ability to obtain credit. Nearly 40% of Black respondents with an annual income of less than $40,000 believe their credit card application would be denied, while only 25% of White respondents feared the same result.

As we mentioned above, as income increases, access to credit increases as well. For respondents with an annual income of $40,000 to $100,000, only 9% of Whites believe their credit card application would be denied, while 16% of both Blacks and Hispanics feared the same result.

Segment: Confident: Not Confident: Don’t Know:
< $40,000
White 65% 25% 10%
Black 47% 38% 15%
Hispanic 57% 30% 12%
$40,000 – $100,000
White 89% 9% 2%
Black 80% 16% 4%
Hispanic 78% 16% 6%
> $100,000
White 96% 2% 1%
Black 86% 9% 4%
Hispanic 95% 4% 0%

As a somewhat surprising result, respondents with an annual income greater than $100,000 – 9% of Black participants still felt their credit card application would be denied.

Credit Card Owners Who Don’t Pay Their Balance In Full Each Month

Citing payment history, almost half of respondents claim they never carry a positive credit card balance from one period to the next. Contrast that with 27% of respondents who admit they carry a positive balance most of the time.

Happened Once: Happens Sometimes: Happens Many Times: Not Happened:
6% 21% 27% 45%

With American credit card debt currently sitting at 799 billion and total revolving debt currently sitting at over 1 trillion, banks and lending institutions are surely happy with the results. We estimate that American FDIC institutions earned roughly 108 billion in credit card interest in 2018. But while the Federal Reserve’s SHED survey implies that 48% of credit card balances roll over each month, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has this figure closer to 71%.

How We Conducted The Study

To present the most accurate assessment of the average number of credit cards per person across the United States, we analyzed data from Experian State of Credit Cards and the State of Credit. Next, we decomposed data from the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Household Economics and Decision Making (SHED). Its latest annual report researching various topics such as credit access, spending activity, and consumers’ financial well-being.

Conclusion

Supported by the findings above, income plays a crucial role in one’s ability to obtain credit. States with the highest median income per capita also tend to have the highest average number of credit cards per person. Moreover – at the individual level – 97% of borrowers with an annual income of more than $100,000 own at least one credit card.

But while income is a leading indicator of credit card ownership, perceptions also play a role. Across the board – by race, income, or both – Black respondents were less confident than Whites and Hispanics in their ability to obtain a credit card. So while American credit card debt continues to rise – surpassing the highs we saw during the 2008 financial crisis – it will be interesting to see how these trends play out in the future.

Sources

Experian: State of Credit Cards

Experian: State of Credit

Federal Reserve Survey of Household Economics and Decision Making (SHED)

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