29 Million Carrying Credit Card Debt for 2+ Years

More than 1-in-4 Americans Carry Credit Card Debt

Austin, Texas – September 28, 2017 – 43% of U.S. adults who carry credit card debt – about 29 million people – have been carrying a balance for at least two years, according to a new study by CreditCards.com. That includes 15 million who have been in credit card debt for at least five years. Click here for the full story.

Older Boomers, ages 63-71, are the most likely age group to carry a balance for at least two years. A total of 63% of Older Boomers fall into that category, followed by the Silent Generation (ages 72+, 57%).  Just 18% of U.S. adults with credit card debt started carrying their debt within the last 6 months.

“Carrying credit card debt is a slippery slope,” said Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com.  “What may seem inconsequential at first can quickly grow into overwhelming debt.  Bottom line: stick to your budget and only charge what you know you can pay off each month.”

More than 1-in-4 Americans (28%) admit to carrying a balance on their credit card from month to month.  Middle-aged respondents are most likely to carry credit card debt, including 36% of Gen Xers (ages 37-52) and 33% of younger Baby Boomers (ages 53-62).  

One might assume that people with credit card debt are making big purchases that they can’t afford. However, the most common reason (32%) is just keeping up with day-to-day expenses.  51% of younger millennials (ages 18-26) with credit card debt cited this reason, followed by older millennials (ages 27-36) and Gen Xers – each at 35%.

“What’s driving people into credit card debt? Life. For millions of Americans, it isn’t about splurging. They are going into credit card debt because they have to buy groceries, put the kids in daycare or even just keep the lights on,” Schulz added.

Additional reasons Americans incurred their credit card debt include: retail purchases (16%), paying medical bills (12%), home repairs (10%), vacation expenses (10%) and car repairs (7%).

People who make more money, have a higher education and full-time workers are more likely to carry credit card debt than lower income, less educated and unemployed Americans.

The survey was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International.  PSRAI obtained telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of 2,005 adults living in the continental United States. Interviews were conducted by landline (1,002) and cell phone (1,003, including 665 without a landline phone) in English and in Spanish by Princeton Data Source from August 17-20 and September 7-10, 2017. The margin of sampling error for the complete set of weighted data is ± 2.5 percentage points.

CreditCards.com is a leading online credit card marketplace, bringing consumers and credit card issuers together. At its free website, consumers can compare hundreds of credit card offers from America’s leading issuers and banks and apply securely, online. CreditCards.com is also a destination site for consumers wanting to learn more about credit cards. Offering advice, news, features, statistics and tools, CreditCards.com helps consumers make smart choices about credit cards. In 2016, over 35 million unique visitors used CreditCards.com to find the right credit card to suit their needs.