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Consumer Credit Behavior and Market Statistics

Nov. 7, 2016
Credit Card Data, Credit Cards
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Credit card market statistics

Number of credit cards in circulation

The simplest way to measure the size of the U.S. credit card market is to count how many cards are out there. There were 606 million credit cards in circulation in the United States in 2015, the most since the recession. We expect the number of cards in the market to reach pre-recession levels in the next couple of years.

Credit card market growth, 2008-2015

Total number of credit cards
2008676.1 million
2009576.4 million
2010513.8 million
2011519.1 million
2012536.6 million
2013549.1 million
2014579.3 million
2015606.0 million

Number of credit card accounts

Another gauge of the size of the credit card market is the number of credit card accounts. Each account can have multiple cards. In the first quarter of 2016, there were 337 million credit card accounts, well exceeding the recession’s slump.

Note: The American Bankers Association defines “subprime” as a credit score below 680, “prime” as a score of 680 to 759, and “superprime” as 760 and above. “New” accounts are those that have been open less than 24 months.

All credit card accounts, 2010-2016

2010127 million81 million74 million
2011133 million77 million65 million
2012138 million77 million59 million
2013151 million79 million57 million
2014160 million86 million58 million
2015164 million89 million60 million
2016170 million98 million69 million

New credit card accounts, 2010-2016

201022 million16 million13 million
201120 million13 million10 million
201222 million17 million15 million
201326 million19 million15 million
201428 million21 million16 million
201529 million24 million20 million
201630 million28 million26 million

cardholder preferences

Experian reported that the average credit card holder had 2.24 general credit cards and 1.55 retail credit cards in 2015. These numbers have changed little over recent years. But what kind of cards do people prefer? For one thing, they prefer cards that provide rewards to those that don’t.

Note: “Co-branded” cards are those that are issued by a bank but that bear the name of an airline, hotel chain or other company or organization. Examples include the United℠ Explorer Card and the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card. “Cash/points/miles” cards offer rewards not tied to a co-brand partner. Examples include the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer and the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card.

Total new account volume by product

Airline co-brand 9%9%9%9%9%7%7%8%8%8%7%6%8%

Credit card application and rejection rates

Credit card issuers appear to be doing a better job of matching people with products, and people appear to be more likely to apply for products they can qualify for. As a result, applications are rising, and rejections are declining.

Credit card applications and rejections

 Application rateRejection rate
October 201324.9%21.6%
February 201429.8%20.4%
June 201428.6%20.2%
October 201427.6%22%
February 201528%20.4%
June 201528.8%13.5%
October 201527.5%13.5%
February 201628%17.3%
June 201630.6%15%

Spending patterns and payment preferences

Spending in typical credit card bonus categories

Having trouble picking a rewards card because you don’t know how much you spend in certain categories? Here’s what the U.S. government said Americans typically spent in common bonus categories in 2015.

How Americans pay

Cardholders continue to signal that they appreciate flexibility in payment options: General-purpose credit and debit cards, those that can be used at most retailers, continue to rise at the expense of checks and private-label cards, those that can be used only at specific stores or other merchants. These numbers are updated every three years.

Payments by type

In billions of dollars
General purpose credit card12.315.219.019.523.8
General purpose debit8.315.625.037.547.0
Private-label credit3.
Private-label prepaid001.92.73.6

Note: Automated Clearing House (ACH) transactions are transfers directly from one account to another. With electronic benefit transfer (EBT), recipients of public assistance get their benefits loaded on a debit-style card, which they use to make purchases.

Mobile payment preferences

Usage of P2P payment apps

Just under 50% of Americans say they use peer-to-peer mobile payment apps such as Venmo, PayPal, SquareCash and Dwolla, although with varying degrees of frequency. We expect this number to rise over the next few years.

Consumer use of P2P mobile payment apps in 2015

Less than monthly19%
Unaware of P2P mobile payment options14%

Most popular mobile payment transactions

Food purchases appear to be the most popular use for mobile payments, with fast food, grocery, convenience stores and restaurants filling out the top four spots.

Types of mobile payments in 2015

CategoryPercent making purchase
Quick service food/drinks40%
Grocery store39%
Convenience store34%
Full-service restaurant33%
Large retailer31%
Household bills29%
Taxi services28%
Telecom services27%


Mobile payment apps were among the most commonly used digital payment methods.

Which digital payment methods people use

Digital payment methodPercent of people who use
Mobile payment apps by retailer, restaurant, etc.14%
Digital currency10%
Apple Pay8%
Google Wallet8%

Mobile payment growth

Mobile payments are expected to grow 53% faster than traditional payments.

Estimated growth, e-commerce vs. mobile commerce

2014$1.4 trillion$57.76 billion
2018 estimated$2.36 trillion$293 billion