Credit Card Data

By NerdWallet 
Edited by Paul Soucy

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NerdWallet's credit card research team spends thousands of hours a year studying data from the financial services industry, government and other sources to spot trends, opportunities and dangers that consumers should be aware of. The links on this page point to some of our most-read research.

For NerdWallet data analysis on other topics — student loans, banking, mortgages and more — see this page.

American Household Credit Card Debt Study

Every winter, NerdWallet analyzes data from multiple sources, including the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Census Bureau, to determine how much debt Americans are carrying, why they have it and how this debt will grow.

  • 2023 study: Rising interest rates make carrying debt more expensive and paying it off more expensive, and that has many Americans stressed.

  • 2022 study: Credit card debt surges anew as Americans struggle with inflation and look to the future with increased anxiety.

  • 2021 study: Financial recovery will be slow for many, as the cost of living keeps rising while average household income has fallen.

  • 2020 study: "Average" debt numbers mask wide disparities as the COVID-19 pandemic ravages some families' finances far more than others.

  • 2019 study: Income growth catches up to the cost of living — except for medical costs, which is one reason parenthood is such a big driver of debt.

  • 2018 study: Student loan forbearance adds to debt loads. Forbearance allows borrowers to pause repayments, but interest continues to pile up.

  • 2017 study: Tens of millions of Americans put medical debt on credit cards as the cost of living continues to grow faster than household income.

  • 2016 study: Household debt returns to levels not seen since before the Great Recession — but that doesn't mean another downturn is on the way.

  • 2015 study: Debt isn't solely (or even mostly) caused by irresponsible spending. It's the result of incomes not keeping up with inflation.

Annual Travel Credit Card Study

Every spring, NerdWallet examines travel trends, frequent-flyer programs, offers from card issuers and other data points to help you get maximum value from travel credit cards.

  • 2023 study: Travel rewards credit cards are increasingly popular among younger consumers — and many cardholders are letting points and miles pile up.

  • 2022 study: Looking to put the pandemic behind them, most Americans are planning to travel. But millions of others are hanging back.

  • 2021 study: Holders of travel credit cards are sitting on a mountain of points and miles earned during the pandemic.

  • 2020: With COVID-19 bringing travel to a standstill and radically reshaping the travel credit cards market, NerdWallet refocused our study on the pandemic's effect on Americans' finances.

  • 2019 study: Rewards earned on travel credit cards are valuable, but many people grossly overestimate that value.

  • 2018 study: Americans who don't use travel credit cards miss out on hundreds of dollars' worth of free travel every year.

  • 2017 study: When should you use cash to book a trip, and when are you better off using airline points?

  • 2016 study: Americans miss out on big bonuses by applying for travel cards at the wrong time.

Annual Consumer Credit Card Report

Every summer or fall, NerdWallet surveys the credit card landscape to identify important trends for consumers.

  • 2023 study: Credit card debt is up, higher interest rates are making that debt more expensive — and a lot of people don't want to talk about their debt.

  • 2022 study: As inflation drives up the cost of living, consumers lean on credit cards to cope. But gaps in knowledge about how credit cards work can lead to trouble.

  • 2021 study: Nearly 1 in 5 cardholders had credit limits cut during the COVID-19 pandemic, causing distress for some and leading many to rethink how they look at their cards.

  • 2020 study: As the COVID-19 pandemic turned finances upside down, Americans reached out to their credit card issuers for assistance — and found that hardship help comes at a cost.

  • 2019 study: Nearly half of Americans with credit cards carry debt on them from month to month. With average interest rates rising 35% in five years, that debt has gotten a lot more expensive.

  • 2018 study: Americans are delinquent on billions in credit card debt. The most common reason for missing payments isn't overspending — it's simple forgetfulness.

  • 2017 study: Unsecured cards marketed to those with poor credit come with high fees and low limits that leave cardholders perpetually maxed out.

  • 2016 study: People with bad credit are a huge market, and predatory issuers are taking advantage. Subprime credit card debt is more expensive.

  • 2015 study: EMV shift could paradoxically lead to more fraud. Annual fees are costing some rewards card holders dearly. Millennials should exercise caution when applying for cards.

Psychology of debt

NerdWallet digs into the psychological side of credit card debt: the relationship between emotion and debt, and how debt makes us feel.

  • 2020 study: Nearly one-quarter of Americans have no credit history or have just started trying to build one. Plus, opinions are split on credit cards — are they "helpful"? "Dangerous"? "Complicated"? "Evil"? All of the above?

  • 2018 study: Credit card debt and regret go hand in hand. Still, more than 7 in 10 say they would go into credit card debt for certain expenses.

  • 2017 study:  Half of Americans emotionally overspend, while 87% would be embarrassed to admit having credit card debt.

  • 2016 study: More than two-thirds of Americans say there's more stigma in credit card debt than in other kinds of debt.

Other credit card studies and surveys

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