Credit Card Debt: 1 in 4 Americans Fall Deeper Into Debt Each Month (2023 Data)

Matt Brannon's Photo
By Matt Brannon Updated September 18, 2023

SHARE

๐Ÿ’ธ How much credit card debt does the average American have? ๐Ÿ’ธ

More than 3 in 5 Americans (61%) are in credit card debt โ€” with an average balance of $5,875. About 23% of credit card users go deeper into debt each month.

Average Credit Card Debt | Average Credit Card Spending | Missed Payments | Going Deeper Into Debt | Paying Off Debt | Blame for Credit Card Debt | Multiple Forms of Debt | Consequences of Debt | Using Credit Cards for Necessities | Credit Card Habits | Cashless Society

Consumers can't seem to catch a break. Although the Federal Reserve's strategy of raising interest rates to slow inflation is making progress, that approach has caused credit card interest rates to swell to an all-time high.

The timing is less than ideal. About 3 in 5 Americans (61%) are in credit card debt, owing an average of $5,875, according to a survey of 1,000 U.S. credit card users by Clever Real Estate. 

With little saved, about half of credit card users (48%) already depend on their cards for essential living expenses, such as rent, food, and utilities. Many can't keep up with payments, and 23% say they go deeper into credit card debt every month.

Americans spend an average of $1,506 on their credit cards each month โ€” more than $18,000 a year. About 28% of card users say they find it difficult to regularly make the minimum payments on their credit cards. Even worse, 1 in 7 Americans (14%) say they've missed a payment in 2023. 

To learn more about the state of credit card debt in the U.S., Clever asked credit card users about their balance, spending, and opinions on credit cards. Read on to see the key takeaways from the survey.

Credit Card Debt Statistics ๐Ÿ’ณ

  • 61% of American credit card users are in credit card debt, owing an average of $5,875.

  • The average credit card user spends $1,506 on their cards per month.

    • Millennials spend the most, averaging $2,410 per month. ๐Ÿ‘‡

  • 43% of credit card users have missed a payment in the last five years, including 14% in 2023.

    • The most common reasons for missing a credit card payment are forgetting to pay (36%) and needing to buy food or groceries instead (36%). ๐Ÿ‘‡

  • 23% of credit card users say they go deeper into debt every month. ๐Ÿ‘‡

    • 33% have paid off one credit card bill with another credit card. 

  • 23% of Americans in credit card debt think it will take more than five years to pay off their balance. ๐Ÿ‘‡
  • Of those with credit card debt, 49% blame their own excessive spending habits. ๐Ÿ‘‡
  • 81% of Americans with credit card debt are also in some other form of debt.

    • Americans rank credit card debt as the most stressful form of debt, ahead of medical debt and mortgage debt. ๐Ÿ‘‡

  • 47% of Americans who have had credit card debt say it has prevented them from building emergency savings, and 22% say it has prevented them from buying a home. ๐Ÿ‘‡
  • Nearly half of credit card users (48%) say they depend on their credit card for essential living expenses, such as rent, food, and utilities. ๐Ÿ‘‡
  • 53% of Americans have maxed out a credit card at some point โ€” including 29% who do so monthly. ๐Ÿ‘‡
  • 63% of credit card users think the U.S. will eventually become a cashless society, including 31% who say it will happen in the next 10 years. ๐Ÿ‘‡

Americans Average Nearly $6,000 in Credit Card Debt

For the first time, Americans have collectively eclipsed $1 trillion in credit card debt. Clever's research shows the numbers are just as daunting on an individual basis. 

About 61% of American credit card users are in debt, owing an average balance of $5,875. As if times weren't stressful enough, about 37% of card users say their debt is preventing them from living the life they want. 

Millennials are faring much worse than other generations. About 67% of millennials are in credit card debt, with an average balance of $6,794.

At the same time Americans are racking up debt, most acknowledge their credit card usage is making things worse. About 52% of card users say they would spend less money if they didn't have a credit card, which is consistent with psychology research showing people tend to spend more when using cards compared to cash. 

In fact, consumers who regularly use multiple credit cards average more than double the debt of consumers who use just one โ€” $6,890 vs. $3,299.

Credit Card Debt Has Become Chronic for Many Americans

More than 82% of credit card users have been in debt at some point. But falling behind on credit card debt can quickly graduate from a short-term snag to a perpetual problem. 

About 40% of Americans with credit card debt have been underwater for more than five years, and 15% have been in debt since before 2008. And with interest rates as high as they are, Americans who recently fell into debt are more likely than ever to slip into a perpetual state of debt.

Headlines hammering the uncertainty of the economy have put even cautious card users on edge. Of the 39% of Americans who aren't in credit card debt, about one-third (31%) worry they'll go into debt in the next five years.

Americans Spend $1,500 on Credit Cards Each Month

Although inflation has slowed, goods are still 18% more expensive than before the pandemic. As a result, Americans haven't had the chance to temper their credit card spending โ€” despite high levels of debt. The average American spends about $1,506 on credit cards each month โ€” roughly $18,072 per year. 

Many admit to bad spending habits. About 43% of card users say they sometimes spend more money than they earn, and 22% say they don't track their credit card spending at all

Millennials, by far, are the biggest spenders at $2,410 each month. That's 204% more than boomers ($794) and 48% more than Gen Z ($1,626).

Notably, those without credit card debt spend 9% more than those with credit card debt โ€” $19,200 vs. $17,556 annually.

Altogether, Americans say they spend about 30% of their monthly take-home pay on credit card bills. About 42% of card users say making payments on time stresses them out, and 28% say they find it difficult to regularly make the minimum payment on their credit card. 

If credit card users don't pay off their balance each month, they'll end up paying an average of 20.7% interest โ€” an all-time high for credit cards. 

Many may not realize how much they pay in interest, however. About 41% of Americans think average credit card interest rates are less than 20%, including 13% who think rates are under 10%.

1 in 7 Americans Have Missed a Credit Card Payment in 2023

Despite slowing inflation, Americans are still missing credit card payments at an alarming rate. About 14% of credit card users missed a payment in the first seven months of 2023. That includes nearly 1 in 5 millennials (19%). 

Overall, 43% of Americans have missed a credit card payment in the last five years. The vast majority (78%) of those Americans have missed multiple payments, including 18% who have missed more than 10 payments in the last five years. 

The most common reasons for missing a payment are forgetting to pay (36%) and using the money for food or groceries instead (36%). Other reasons include:

  • They had to pay for an unexpected emergency (33%)
  • They had to pay utility bills (33%)
  • They had to pay their rent or mortgage (27%)
  • They had to prioritize other forms of debt (22%)
  • They no longer had income to make the payment/lost their income (20%)
  • They spent too much on nonessentials (19%)

Meanwhile, just 44% of credit card users say they've never missed a payment.

Nearly 1 in 4 Americans Fall Deeper Into Credit Card Debt Each Month

Perhaps the most disheartening finding from the survey: About 1 in 4 credit card users (23%) say they go deeper into debt each month.

Additionally, about 28% of card users say they don't know their credit card's interest rate, meaning they might be racking up hundreds โ€” or thousands โ€” of dollars in interest over time. With today's rates, a card user making minimum payments on a $3,000 balance would need nearly 10 years to pay off the bill โ€” while spending about $4,000 extra in interest. 

Some Americans are so desperate to make payments that 1 in 3 (33%) say they've paid off one credit card bill with a different card at some point.

The grave risk of falling behind on payments may explain why 56% of Americans say they want to decrease their credit card usage.

Overall, Americans say they:

  • Would like to decrease their credit card usage (56%)
  • Tend to spend more when using credit cards than they do when using cash or debit (53%)
  • Tend to spend more on their credit card when they're happy (39%)
  • Have opened a new credit card without doing prior research (i.e., at a store to save on a purchase) (31%)
  • Have had their credit card information stolen (29%)
  • Don't budget consistently (29%)
  • Don't know the interest rate on their credit card(s) (28%)
  • Tend to spend more on their credit card when they're sad (27%)
  • Go deeper into credit card debt every month (23%)
  • Have lost track of how many credit cards they have (15%)

Compared to those without credit card debt, Americans in credit card debt are:

  • 111% more likely to say they have lost track of how many credit cards they have
  • 89% more likely to say they do not budget consistently
  • 68% more likely to say they have opened a credit card without doing prior research

About 16% of respondents say they spend more on their cards when they're both happy and sad. Those respondents are 28% more likely than average to be in credit card debt. 

Americans Expect to Be in Credit Card Debt for Years

Just 49% of Americans in credit card debt expect to pay off their debt within the next year, while others are less optimistic about how long it will take to become debt-free. 

About 23% expect it to take more than five years to pay off their credit card debt, including 6% who believe they'll never pay it off.

In contrast, of the 39% of Americans who aren't in credit card debt, most have been debt-free for several years โ€” including 17% who have been debt-free for more than 10 years. About 48% of those who are debt-free say they've never been in credit card debt. 

People in Credit Card Debt Blame Inflation, Poor Choices

Americans with credit card debt say a variety of issues led to their current predicament. 

The most common factor people blamed was inflation (65%), followed by paying off other debts (55%). Just under half (49%) say their own excessive spending and bad choices were at fault. 

Unexpected misfortunes, such as an illness/medical issue (42%) or job loss (35%), are also commonly cited. Americans say the following factors contributed to their credit card debt:

  • Inflation (65%)
  • Paying off other debt (55%)
  • Their own excessive spending/bad financial choices (49%)
  • Vacations (46%)
  • Illness or medical emergency (42%)
  • COVID-19 (40%)
  • Job loss (35%)
  • Having a child (28%)
  • Buying a home (27%)
  • Going to school/university (25%)
  • Starting/running a small business (24%)
  • Their wedding (17%)

Nearly 1 in 3 Americans Have Sought Professional Advice or Counseling for Credit Card Debt

It's no secret that credit card spending can easily become excessive. About 70% of Americans say credit cards cause people to spend irresponsibly. 

And technology has made compulsive shopping dangerously easy. Earlier in 2023, Clever reported that more than one-third of Americans admitted to overshopping to relieve stress. 

As a result, nearly 1 in 3 credit card users (29%) have sought professional financial advice or counseling about credit card debt. 

Regarding credit card usage, Americans say:

  • They think credit cards cause people to spend irresponsibly (70%)
  • They are concerned about the impact of rising interest rates on their credit card debt (57%)
  • They think they would spend less money if they didn't have a credit card (52%)
  • They sometimes spend more than they earn (43%)
  • Making credit card payments on time sometimes stresses them out (42%)
  • They've been denied on a credit card application (40%)
  • Credit card debt has prevented them from living the life they want (37%)
  • They have paid off a credit card bill with another credit card at some point (33%)
  • They have sought professional financial advice or counseling regarding credit card debt (29%)
  • They find it difficult to regularly make the minimum payment on their credit card (28%)

81% of Americans With Credit Card Debt Are Also in Some Other Form of Debt

Paying down credit card debt might be easier for Americans if they could put extra money toward the task. But more than 4 in 5 Americans (81%) in credit card debt also face other types of debt, the most common being mortgage debt (35%).

Americans with credit card debt also have: 

  • Mortgage debt (35%)
  • Auto loan debt (33%)
  • Personal loan debt (31%)
  • Medical debt (28%)
  • Student loan debt (27%)
  • Some other form of debt (13%)

Despite numerous debt obligations, Americans still rank credit card debt as the most stressful form of debt โ€” even more than medical debt.

Stress Rank Type of Debt Average Rank (Out of 6)
1 Credit card debt 3.13
2 Medical debt 3.39
3 Mortgage debt 3.41
4 Personal loan debt 3.50
5 Auto loan debt 3.64
6 Student loan debt 3.94

Credit Card Debt Has Prevented Americans From Building Savings and Buying a Home

For the 82% of Americans who have been in credit card debt at some point, their debt has often gotten in the way of other priorities in life. 

About 47% of that group say credit card debt has prevented them from building emergency savings. Another 39% say credit card debt stopped them from saving for retirement. 

Credit card debt is also dashing the conventional American dream. About 22% say they couldn't buy a home, and 18% say they couldn't afford children because of credit card debt. 

Americans who have had credit card debt at some point say the debt has prevented them from:

  • Building an emergency fund/emergency savings (47%)
  • Saving for retirement (39%)
  • Making nonessential purchases (e.g., concert tickets, sporting events, video games, etc.) (38%)
  • Taking a vacation (38%)
  • Paying off other debt (e.g., medical, student loans, etc.) (36%)
  • Buying a car (29%)
  • Moving (25%)
  • Starting/maintaining a small business (23%)
  • Purchasing a home (22%)
  • Saving for or attending college (21%)
  • Having a child (18%)
  • Having a wedding (15%)

On the bright side, a credit card doesn't have to interrupt every life goal. Most Americans (51%) say they would pursue a relationship with someone even if that person had significant credit card debt.

Just don't ask about their credit score on the first date, which 59% of Americans say would offend them.

With Little Saved, 48% of Americans Depend on Credit Cards for Essential Expenses

Despite the risks of credit card debt, nearly half of card users (48%) still rely on plastic for essential living expenses, such as rent, food, and utilities. 

In particular, millennials are twice as likely as boomers to say they depend on their credit cards for essential living expenses (59% vs. 29%).

That may be a product of Americans' meager savings in 2023. One-third of Americans (33%) have no emergency savings, and 43% say they could not afford a $2,000 emergency without using their credit card. 

Americans have, on average, about $7,549 in emergency savings โ€” and those without credit card debt have about $2,000 more stowed away than those with debt ($8,758 vs. $6,537).

Gen Z lags well behind millennials and baby boomers in terms of emergency savings. In fact, Gen Z averages more credit card debt ($4,461) than emergency savings ($4,247).

29% of Americans Max Out a Credit Card Every Month

Most experts say it's unwise to spend more than 30% of your credit card limit in an individual billing period. 

Yet 53% of Americans have maxed out a credit card at some point โ€” including 29% who do so at least once per month. About 1 in 7 Americans (15%) say they don't even know their credit limit

Similarly, 42% of Americans admit to buying something with their card they can't afford to pay off right away at least once a month.

Nearly 2 in 3 Say America Will Become a Cashless Society

As a precaution during the COVID-19 pandemic, some restaurants and retailers stopped taking cash in favor of credit and debit cards. 

Most Americans expect this trend to become the norm at some point: 63% of credit card users say the U.S. will eventually become a cashless society, including 31% who think it will happen within 10 years.

For Americans today, cash is only the preferred payment method for tipping (57%). Debit cards are more often used to cover large expenses, such as housing payments (57%) and utility costs (55%). Credit cards are most common for travel (53%) and retail shopping (49%). 

Methodology

The proprietary data featured in this study comes from an online survey commissioned by Clever Real Estate. One thousand credit card users were surveyed Aug. 3, 2023. Each respondent answered up to 24 questions related to their credit card spending, debt, and other financial matters. 

About Clever

Since 2017, Clever Real Estate has been on a mission to make selling or buying a home easier and more affordable for everyone. 12 million annual readers rely on Clever's library of educational content and data-driven research to make smarter real estate decisions. To date, Clever has helped consumers save more than $160 million on real estate fees. Clever's research has been featured in The New York Times, Business Insider, Inman, Housing Wire, and many more.

More Research From Clever

American Home Buyer and Seller Report (2023 Edition): To learn how buyers and sellers are navigating this bizarre new market, we surveyed 1,000 Americans who purchased a home in 2022 and 2023.

The Most Bike-Friendly Cities in the U.S. (2023 Data): We analyzed data from the U.S. Census and other metrics to rank the most bike-friendly cities in the U.S. Find out if your city is geared toward cyclists.

1 in 4 Americans Think Marriage Is an Outdated Concept in 2023: We surveyed 1,000 adult Americans about their views on marriage, their relationship deal breakers, and other topics related to the institution.

Articles You Might Like

11 Best Companies That Buy Houses for Cash: Looking to sell your home fast? We found the best companies that buy houses for cash.

Home Buyer Rebates: Do You Qualify?: Are home buyer rebates legal? Yes, 42 states and Washington, D.C., allow agents and brokers to offer rebates or cash rewards to home buyers.

Clever Real Estate Reviews: How It Works, Pricing, and Alternatives: Clever Real Estate is a nationwide service that matches you with top-rated, local real estate agents and helps you save thousands on commission.

Frequently Asked Questions About Credit Card Debt

What is the average monthly credit card bill in the U.S.?

The average credit card user spends $1,506 on their cards each month. Millennials spend the most of any generation at $2,410 per month. Learn more about credit card debt.

How much does the average American owe in credit card debt?

About 61% of Americans have credit card debt, with an average balance of $5,875. Millennials owe an average of $6,794, the most of any generation. Learn more about credit card debt in the U.S.

What is the average amount of credit card debt for Gen Z? 

About 57% of Gen Z Americans are in credit card debt, owing an average of $4,461. Gen Zers owe slightly more credit card debt than they have in emergency savings. Learn more about credit card debt by generation.

Better real estate agents at a better rate

Enter your zip code to see if Clever has a partner agent in your area
If you don't love your Clever partner agent, you can request to meet with another, or shake hands and go a different direction. We offer this because we're confident you're going to love working with a Clever Partner Agent.