American Household Credit Card Debt Statistics: 2015 - NerdWallet
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American Household Credit Card Debt Statistics: 2015

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The average US household credit card debt stands at $16,140, counting only those households carrying debt. Based on an analysis of Federal Reserve statistics and other government data, the average household owes  $7,529 on their cards; looking only at indebted households, the average outstanding balance rises to $16,140. Here are statistics, trends, studies and methodology behind the average U.S. household debt.

Current as of October 2015

U.S. household consumer debt profile:

  • Average credit card debt: $16,140
  • Average mortgage debt: $155,361
  • Average student loan debt: $31,946

In total, American consumers owe:

  • $11.85 trillion in debt
    • An increase of 1.4% from last year
  • $918.5 billion in credit card debt
  • $8.09 trillion in mortgages
  • $1.19 trillion in student loans
    • An increase of 5.9% from last year

Deep dive: credit card debt

Credit card debt is the third largest source of household indebtedness. Only the mortgage and student loan debt markets are larger. Here are the latest credit card debt statistics from the Federal Reserve:

Total Credit Card Debt Average Household Credit Card Debt Average Indebted Household Debt
August 2015 $918.5 billion $7,529 $16,140
Change from July 0.44% 0.37% 0.37%
Change from August 2014 4.21% 3.38% 3.38%
Change from July, annualized 5.29% 4.49% 4.49%

What lower credit card debt means for the economy

What does this mean? Credit card debt is holding fairly steady – but whether or not that’s a good thing is up for debate. On the one hand, higher consumer spending puts the economy on a positive track. Higher spending leads to more jobs and higher incomes, which in turn lead to higher spending. However, if wages and employment are improving at this sluggish pace, this might well be an indication that families are borrowing to make ends meet rather than a reflection of a well-founded increase in consumer confidence.

Read on for statistics, data, methodology and conclusions on the state of U.S. credit card debt.

March 31, 2010 December 30, 2012
Total revolving debt $906.7 billion $849.8 billion
Number of U.S. households 116,716,292 119,397,330*
Average credit card debt per household $7,768 $7,117*
% of households with a credit card balance 43.2% 46.7%
Average credit card debt per indebted household $17,630 $15,257

*NerdWallet estimates; see methodology section for details.
In March 2010, the last date at which the data can be reliably estimated, we found that:

  • The median American household owed $3,300 of consumer debt;
  • The average American household owed $7,768 and
  • The average indebted American household owed $17,630.

Note that the average American household owed far more than the median, and also that the average indebted household owed far more than the average household overall. Such large discrepancies indicate that a relatively small number of households were deeply underwater.

Two things stand out: overall credit card debt is down, and the average indebted household is less underwater relative to the average overall than before.

Falling indebtedness is largely due to defaults rather than repayment

Between 2006 and 2008, credit card debt rose steadily and reached its height in January 2009, six months into the financial crisis, as unemployment soared and defaults began in earnest. From there, average debt loads took a sharply downward trajectory and dipped below 2006 levels in mid-2010. 2011, however, saw the decline in average debt become a plateau, and debt levels have since then hovered around $15,600. There is a broad consensus on why indebtedness rose during the boom years: low interest rates and easy access to credit brought Americans to take on record levels of debt. However, the data still leaves two questions:

  • Why did indebtedness decline in 2009 and 2010?
  • Why has indebtedness plateaued since then?

Why did indebtedness fall in 2009 and 2012? Ideally, debt levels would have fallen because newly frugal Americans paid off their credit card balances. However, a number of not-so-pleasant factors contributed to the decline. In 2010, credit card companies wrote off seriously delinquent debts in earnest, lowering the total amount of revolving credit card debt. The charge-off rate – the percentage of dollars owed that issuers have written off as uncollectable – rose to 10.9% in the second quarter of 2010. This represented an increase of over 300% from the first quarter of 2006, when the charge-off rate was only 3.1%. Charge-offs account for a significant portion of the debt reduction.

The graph says it all: between the fourth quarter of 2009 and the fourth quarter of 2010, average household debt fell by $2,722. The speed with which average debt fell indicates that loans were written off, rather than paid off. As a result of those losses, spooked credit card companies tightened their purse strings. Stricter lending standards also contributed to a fall in total credit card debt. Those two factors – fewer loans, made to more creditworthy consumers – are troubling, as they speak to a one-off correction rather than an improvement in underlying factors such as increased income or fiscal prudence.
Why did indebtedness plateau in 2011? As the economy limps forward, credit card companies increasingly loosen their lending standards. Confident that consumers will be able to pay off their debts, the issuers allow more people to borrow more money. NerdWallet expects household indebtedness to resume an upward trend in the coming years as creditors become more lenient.


Household indebtedness estimates can only be considered reliable when three sets of data were released at approximately the same time:

  • The U.S. Census, taken by the federal government every 10 years, tells us how many American households there are;
  • The Aggregate Revolving Consumer Debt Survey, taken monthly by the Federal Reserve, tells us how much debt is outstanding, in total; and
  • The Survey of Consumer Finances, taken by the Federal Reserve every 3-5 years, tells us the percentage of families with credit card debt.

The last date at which this occurred was March 31st, 2010. To estimate consumer debt in June of 2012, we extrapolated from the following data sets:

We also use the Aggregate Revolving Consumer Debt survey, which is current. Mortgage, student loan and auto loan data come from the New York Federal Reserve’s Household Credit Report.
Notes about 2012 data:

NerdWallet used a straight-line extrapolation to estimate the number of household units each month, based on census estimates from 2005 as well as official census data from 2010.

The percentage of credit card approval rates is updated every few years by the Federal Reserve, and was last published in March 2011 covering a survey period from 2007 to 2009. NerdWallet’s monthly estimates of this figure are based on internal data of credit card approval rates.

Average U.S. household credit card debt by quarter, 2006-2014


Quarter Average debt/household Average debt/
indebted household
1Q2006 $7,826 $16,373
2Q2006 $7,926 $16,582
3Q2006 $8,008 $16,752
4Q2006 $8,123 $16,994
1Q2007 $8,237 $17,232
2Q2007 $8,367 $17,505
3Q2007 $8,543 $17,873
4Q2007 $8,740 $18,285
1Q2008 $8,329 $17,425
2Q2008 $8,416 $17,607
3Q2008 $8,440 $17,759
4Q2008 $8,341 $17,874
1Q2009 $8,186 $17,871
2Q2009 $7,963 $17,718
3Q2009 $7,750 $17,582
4Q2009 $7,516 $17,356
1Q2010 $7,281 $16,633
2Q2010 $7,101 $15,910
3Q2010 $6,939 $15,250
4Q2010 $6,816 $14,702
1Q2011 $6,746 $14,461
2Q2011 $6,730 $14,427
3Q2011 $6,708 $14,380
4Q2011 $6,753 $14,476
1Q2012 $6,754 $14,479
2Q2012 $7,224 $15,485
3Q2012 $7,160 $15,348
4Q2012 $7,168 $15,366
1Q2013 $7,101 $15,223
2Q2013 $7,104 $15,229
3Q2013 $7,110 $15,241
4Q2013 $7,126 $15,276
1Q2014 $7,136 $15,297
2Q2014 $7,231 $15,500
3Q2014 $7,286 $15,618
4Q2014 $7,313 $15,677

Average U.S. household credit card debt by year, 2006-2014

Year Average debt/household Average debt/
indebted household
2006 $7,959 $16,651
2007 $8,426 $17,628
2008 $8,832 $18,614
2009 $8,295 $18,623
2010 $7,489 $16,634
2011 $7,094 $15,206
2012 $7,096 $15,211
2013 $7,110 $15,242
2014 $7,241 $15,523
  • Ryan Kitto

    Stay tuned everyone as we are in the process of building an app that will help all of America with this massive issue you see above. Feel to email me at if you would like to be part of our beta test (provide feedback, test functionality). Happy Friday. And we are not a debt consolation company just a few guys that are sick of paying all this interest.

  • guest

    Let’s turn this ship around. Remember, it’s all simple math. What we have is based on how much comes in, minus how much goes out. We have to increase our income, or decrease our expenses, or both. And…. stay out of debt. We must learn the difference between a “need” and a “want”.

  • Deb Ashlynn

    wow and I felt bad this month for leaving a two hundred dollar balance on my credit card, LOL

    • rs1123

      Whatever card you carried the $200 on, don’t use it again til you pay off the balance because you’ll have to pay interest on the new charges even if you pay them off in full next time around. Use a card that you don’t have a balance on and avoid getting charged for simply making a purchase.

      • Deb Ashlynn

        It has no interest for six months, so I’m good. But I pay it off every month anyway to build up a good credit score. At the end of the term I’ll just save it for emergencies. :)

      • Deb Ashlynn

        Thanks, I usually pay it off monthly and now that I am subject to a percentage I will definitely make sure it’s paid off monthly. Funny since I’ve been doing this they raised it to $500. Like they are trying to see how much credit I can use before I trip up, LOL!

  • Matt

    Remember, the global economy depends on ever increasing debt. this will only get worse in the long run.

  • rs1123

    I don’t have a fancy house, I drive a 10 year old car, I have credit cards and use them, but I don’t owe a dime on them that doesn’t get paid off the first time it’s on a bill. Credit card ‘interest’ is one luxury I can’t afford.

    • Lori29

      Well aren’t you special? I guess you weren’t plied with credit cards the moment you turned 18 like the rest of us. I’m 32 years old and still can’t pay off my debt that I incurred at 24.99% interest when I shopped at Pier 1.

  • rs1123

    Be like the government… get and use all the credit cards you can til your personal financial situation catches on fire and you become a milliionaire – then pay off all the cards no problemo.

  • Kate

    Here’s kind of a ballpark…17k @ 18% is $3060 yr. interest (or $255 per month). If you’re in a 33% income tax bracket, that interest payment is costing you close to $400 per month, $4800 yr. And then there is the principal to consider….

  • Name

    Obama and the Democrats are telling one LIE after another just so he can put the blame on Republicans when he knows it was him, Harry Reid and the stubborn Democratic Party that shut down government because he said if he doesn’t get his way he would shut it down. Boehner should’ve said to Obama that he said he would shut down government but he never even bring up what Obama himself said about shutting down government.

  • guest

    They only hurt the businesses who are owed the money, and unless they educate their clients, those people will be right back in the same debt.

  • guest

    Sounds good, but taxpayers overspend for a mediocre education already, and many squander their free K-12 education. Do you really think they’d do something different with a college education? The beauty of the the US is that if you really want something, and are willing to work for it, it can almost always be attained. Don’t just cut money from one area, and then waste all that money somewhere else. PAY OFF OUR NATIONAL DEBT!

  • Deb Ashlynn

    Buyer beware

  • babzter

    You are so right.

  • kate

    that’s easy to say, but the reality is that wages are stagnant; the cost of living continues to increase while wages do not. That is the real problem. So, if I make the same amount I make now 10 years from now (or even 2 years from now) that money is worth a lot less. Thus, if I continue my current lifestyle I will be in debt.
    Also, most of us were told: Get an education to have better job prospects. We worked hard in school to get degrees then found that those degrees weren’t worth all that much. This also contributes.
    My solution to getting out of debt was to move into much cheaper (low quality) housing and to work extra. This is fine and good but not a permanent solution.
    We assume that being in debt means POOR CHOICES. What it really means is that our living expenses exceed our income. In some cases this may be due to extravagant living. In other cases, it is simply that our stagnant salaries do not support the increasing cost of living.

  • Louise Thompson

    Sure Gozmuz!! Sure! When I get all “Cured” of my Celiac, latex allergy and food allergies and my candida and can eat good “FOOD” I will get right on that for YOU! :( Life Sucks when YOU can’t eat. :( And I starve most of the time, because I can’t afford to eat as I eat FRESH PRODUCE!! I don’t eat dairy, meat, fish, grains, lentils, cook food, and little fruit!! :) So there isn’t much left to eat. :( Have a Great Day Gazmuz!! :)