Credit Card Statistics

(Updated September 2019) 

While the number of credit cards in Americans’ wallets has decreased, Americans are still using them to make purchases. In fact, as the popularity of rewards cards rise, Americans are making more purchases than ever on credit. Incidentally, current stats show that the average consumer credit card debt is higher than it’s ever been. Check out our average credit card debt statistics page to find more in depth coverage on the topic of credit card debt & average credit card debt statistics.

On this page, you’ll find credit card ownership statistics, including: the number of cards currently in use, the average number of cards per person, the leading issuing banks, and how many cards each bank has in circulation.

Additionally, you can find how many cards are in circulation by brand, the users per card brand, the market share of each brand, and the average number of cards by generation.

Quick Credit Card statistics

  • 1.06 billion credit cards in use in the United States of America
  • 2.8 billion credit cards in use worldwide
  • Mastercard has the most credit cards in circulation worldwide at 551 million
  • 70% of people have at least one credit card
  • Americans are 40% likely to use a credit card on a purchase
  • 14% of Americans have at least 10 credit cards
  • 60% of Americans believe the US will soon become a cashless society

Americans and Credit Cards

According to a recent survey by the Federal Reserve Bank, respondents revealed that more credit cards are in use today and the national average credit card debt is also rising. Unsurprisingly, the national average household credit card debt sits at $5,331. Out of the countries in the top 10 GDP,  the United States of America’s average credit card debt is almost $1,200 more than the second highest country. Credit card debt makes up the bulk of revolving debt in America.

credit cards in circulation

Consumers are finding that they don’t need as many credit cards as they once thought they did. That is evident in that the average American has 2.7 credit cards, down one whole card from 3.7 in 2009. However, as the prevalence of reward cards continues to grow and consumers get more back on their purchases, they will spend more on these cards and thus create more debt by doing so.

number of credit cards per person in USA

What Percent of the US Population has a Credit Card?

70% of the United States population carries a credit card, with 34% of Americans carrying 3 or more cards. However, most Americans carry more than one, most likely because it will raise your credit limit as the funds are dispatched among multiple different outlets.

Issuing Banks

An issuing bank is the institution that actually issues a consumer’s credit card. Credit card issuers include Chase, Bank of America, and Capital One. Discover and American Express are their own bank and their own credit card issuer.

leading issuing banks and cards per bank

Which Bank Issues the Most Credit Cards?

Chase is by far the most popular of the issuing banks out there, with 93 million credit cards in circulation. Each issuer offers several different types cards than other issuers. Because of this, you’ll find different rates and perks with each issuing bank.

What are the Four Major Credit Card Companies?

The four major credit card companies are Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express. All of these companies have left their mark on consumers internationally, making up the majority of the 2.8 billion credit cards in the world.

number of credit cards in use by brand

The powerhouses of the credit card industry are definitely Visa and Mastercard. With over a billion credit cards in circulation from them alone, they make up the majority of the total credit cards in circulation nationally, while American Express has the lowest credit card numbers. 

market share by credit card brand

With those numbers, it’s no surprise that over half the market share belongs to Visa, considering is has 335 million cards in circulation.

number of users per card brand

This shows that many Mastercard users own multiple cards across multiple credit card accounts, while fewer Visa users have multiple cards.

Average Number of Cards Per Individual By Generation

Baby boomers have the most amount of credit cards per person, with Generation Z having the fewest. As baby boomers in their 40’s and 50’s, the economic prime of life, it makes sense that they would have the most amount of credit cards because they can pay them off with more ease than individuals in another generation.

Gen Z, on the other hand, has the lowest average credit cards per individual because they are the youngest generation. Right around the age of 18, they have little to no credit history or need for a credit card. In fact, many are not even old enough to get a credit card without their guardian’s signature. Some college students open a credit account to begin building their credit history.

Finally, the silent generation has, on average, a half less credit card than baby boomers. This shows that as people grow older, they may be more careful about using a credit card due have a fixed income. They also may have a great credit history and have cards with great interest rates and a lofty credit limit, so they wouldn’t need as many. They may be more careful about using a credit card thus giving them less average revolving credit card debt than other generations.

average credit cards by generation

Credit card statistics


downloads and resources

Data Resources

  • crnrstone.com
  • wallethub.com
  • paymentscardsandmobile.com
  • creditkarma.com
  • creditcardprocessing.com
  • cardrates.com
  • fool.com

Resource Downloads

Download web optimized versions of our data charts and infographics.

Pros and Cons of a Credit Card

Pros

When used responsibly, credit cards can be a safe & convenient way to pay for purchases or household expenses. It can be an easy way to see where your money is going and help you evaluate your budget. With the invention of chip technology, credit cards are also a secure way to pay.

Responsible use of these payment tools can help increase your credit score and get you a better percentage rate from when you apply for auto loans, need to finance a mortgage, or other financial aid. Lenders will run a credit report when you apply for these loans, they will usually look at your FICO score. A FICO score is a type of credit score and is a number that ranges from 300-850, and good credit scores are 670 or higher.  It lets them know at-a-glance how good you are at managing your money & how likely you are to repay a loan. 

A good rule of thumb is to NOT spend money you do not have and say you’ll pay it off later. If you couldn’t pay cash for it right now, then it’s better not to spend the money. This will keep you from overspending and your future self will thank you.

Make you monthly credit card payments, household bills & student loans on time. It will save you money on fees & interest and help you build better credit.

cons

While credit cards are a great payment option, it is easy to get into trouble when used irresponsibly. Credit card users that overspend can quickly find themselves unable to pay off their credit card balances. If they do not have a 0% rate on their credit card, then they will be charged interest each month they carry a balance over from the previous month. The interest then becomes part of the principle payment and if it’s not paid off, then more interest accumulates on the new balance. Even with a maximum credit limit, credit card debt can rack up very quickly.

Carrying a balance from month to month needs to be resolved very quickly when carried on a credit card. Credit card debt statistics show the average credit card balance in America sits at $5,331.  A balance transfer to a card with a lower interest rate may be an option if you can’t pay off the debt it one fell swoop. 

If you can’t pay off the credit card balance in full - pay as much as you can. Pay more than the minimum payment set by the issuing bank. But even if you can’t do that, avoid going into credit card delinquency by paying at least the minimum payment on time. Credit card delinquency will cause your credit score to plummet, and statistics show that credit card delinquency rates are on the rise.  If you find yourself in this situation, there are many budgeting programs out there to help get your finances back on track. 

If your main concerns with credit card ownership include the possibility to overspend, consider a debit card. Many debit cards have the same protection as credit cards and you only spend the money that you have.

Conclusion

Credit card use has grown year after year since their invention as a payment option. They offer the perks of being fast, convenient & secure. Most places accept them and it’s a great way to make online purchases.  Some even have rewards programs or money back offers on every purchase made. Even business credit cards can have perks & rewards too, like air miles. Used carefully and in moderation, they are a great alternative to cash.

Credit cards are very useful payment tools that eliminate the inconvenience of having to carry cash and change with you. They carry many positives, like building credit, but can also carry many negatives. Credit card users should be wise when using their card. Only spend money that you have, not money you think you’ll have in the future, and be sure to track all purchases that you make. 

With all the known negatives of using plastic out there and the constantly rising average credit card debt and credit card delinquency rates, it’s reasonable to be hesitant to acquire a credit card. However, they can be a very strong financial tool when used responsibly.

If you're searching for the average debt credit card users have, or which countries have the lowest average credit card balance, check out our page on average credit card debt statistics to find out the numbers.