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 Bank of New York and the U.S. Census Bureau, to determine how much debt Americans are carrying, why they have it and how this debt will grow.
- 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.
- 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. https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/credit-card-data/2019-consumer-credit-card-report/
- 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.
- 2011-2014 landscape study: Consumers are willing to pay higher fees for higher rewards. Lengthy 0% APR periods are a hit. Consumers pay more attention to fees than APRs.
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
- TRAVEL: Family vacations can mean big costs and little lies (April 2018)
- SHOPPING: Americans favor debit over credit for their go-to card (September 2017)
- CREDIT SCORES: Virtual people, real lessons: How card use affects credit score (April 2017)
- TRAVEL: Currency conversion: Is your credit card giving you a fair rate? (November 2016)
- APPLICATIONS: Rejected for a credit card? 7 in 10 would boycott the bank (November 2016)
- EMV: One year after EMV shift, Americans taking it in stride (October 2016)
- REWARDS: Cash-back cards better than travel cards for most Americans (June 2016)
- CREDIT SCORES: Americans struggle with basics of credit cards and scores — Do you? Try this quiz (March 2016)
- SHOPPING: Americans plan to spend average of $338 on partners for holidays (November 2015)
- REWARDS: Americans’ preference for store credit cards will cost them this holiday season (November 2015)
- SHOPPING: Map: Most popular credit card type in each state (August 2015)