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, 2008-2015Total number of credit cards
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
|2010||127 million||81 million||74 million|
|2011||133 million||77 million||65 million|
|2012||138 million||77 million||59 million|
|2013||151 million||79 million||57 million|
|2014||160 million||86 million||58 million|
|2015||164 million||89 million||60 million|
|2016||170 million||98 million||69 million|
New credit card accounts, 2010-2016
|2010||22 million||16 million||13 million|
|2011||20 million||13 million||10 million|
|2012||22 million||17 million||15 million|
|2013||26 million||19 million||15 million|
|2014||28 million||21 million||16 million|
|2015||29 million||24 million||20 million|
|2016||30 million||28 million||26 million|
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 MileagePlus® 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
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 rate||Rejection rate|
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 typeIn billions of dollars
|General purpose credit card||12.3||15.2||19.0||19.5||23.8|
|General purpose debit||8.3||15.6||25.0||37.5||47.0|
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 monthly||19%|
|Unaware of P2P mobile payment options||14%|
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
|Category||Percent making purchase|
|Quick service food/drinks||40%|
TYPES OF DIGITAL PAYMENTS
Mobile payment apps were among the most commonly used digital payment methods.
Which digital payment methods people use
|Digital payment method||Percent of people who use|
|Mobile payment apps by retailer, restaurant, etc.||14%|
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|
Sean McQuay is a credit and banking expert at NerdWallet. A former strategist with Visa, McQuay now helps consumers use their credit cards and banking products more effectively.
Didn’t see something here you expected to see or want to suggest a new piece of data or source? Email me at askSean@nerdwallet.com.