Credit Card Debt: How Much Does the Typical American Consumer Owe?

by Mercator Advisory Group 0

A recent article on describes why it’s so difficult to estimate how much the average consumer owes in credit card debt.

The Federal Reserve banks, as well as the major credit bureaus, often come up with conflicting numbers. The explanation: each group is actually measuring something different. Some estimates attempt to measure debt at the household level, others at the card or account level. Some include all card accounts; others exclude inactive accounts as well as accounts that don’t typically carry a balance. Below are a few examples from the article. As you can see, the range is quite significant:

• $1,037, per card that doesn’t carry a balance.
• $4,878, per person, excluding unused cards, store cards.
• $7,100, per household with credit card debt.
• $8,220, per card that usually carries a balance.

Many estimates start with the Fed’s G-19 statistic of revolving consumer debt which is mostly (but not entirely) comprised of credit card debt. Even though the Fed’s and others’ estimates all have some drawbacks, the trend line is hard to dispute. Consumers as a whole have significantly reduced credit card borrowing since the recession.

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