The average American carries 2.35 credit cards and a total outstanding balance of $5,551. This average can vary depending on what part of the country a person lives, how old they are, and a few other factors. Credit card ownership also differs among income brackets, genders, and ethnicities. Below we look into specific segments of credit card holders to highlight some of our discoveries.
- Average Number of Credit Cards Per Person
- How Many Credit Cards Should I Have?
- Credit Card Ownership Statistics
How Many Credit Cards Does the Average Person Have?
The average number of credit cards people own has risen since 2010, but the mean balance on those cards has decreased by $336. The table below outlines the average number of credit cards, average total balance, and balance per card for the typical American over the past few years.
|Year||Average Number of Credit Cards||Average Total Balance||Average Balance Per Card|
We observed some notable differences among different regions and demographics. The most prominent differences exist among people of different races, ages, genders, and states of residence.
Average Number of Credit Cards by Region
The average amount of credit card accounts held by a person and the average total balance on those credit cards varied by state. Residents of Mississippi had the lowest number of credit cards open–a state average of 1.69 credit cards per person. New Jersey residents had the highest number of credit cards per person, with an average of 2.54 credit cards per person. On average, Alaska residents had a mean balance of $6,247 on their credit cards. The highest average balance of all regions surveyed, Alaska's total was $2,575 more than Iowa, which is the state with the lowest mean balance, or $3,672.
Of the 51 regions surveyed, only 12 had fewer than 2.00 credit cards per resident. Alabama, West Virginia, Arkansas, and Oklahoma round out the top five for least credit cards per person, after Mississippi. New York, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Connecticut join New Jersey as the states with the most credit cards per person.
An alphabetical list of all the regions included in the comparison analysis can be found below. We've displayed all the states from Alaska to Wyoming with the average number of credit cards per person alongside the average balance on those credit cards.
|Rank||State||Average Number of Credit Cards||Average Total Balance|
Average Number of Credit Cards by Age
When examined by age group, the average number of credit cards and the average balance on those credit cards rises as the consumer ages before declining again. Americans aged 51 through 70, also known as “Baby Boomers”, have the highest average number of credit cards at 2.93 with an average balance of $6,889. Americans under 21 years of age had approximately 1.07 fewer credit cards than the country average. Our previous research shows that younger generations have been struggling to qualify for credit cards, which may help to explain the low number of credit cards per person in the younger age segments.
|Age||Average Number of Credit Cards||Average Total Balance|
|21 and Under||1.29||$1,682|
|22 - 35||2.02||$3,542|
|36 - 50||2.56||$6,866|
|51 - 70||2.93||$6,889|
|71 and Over||1.91||$3,780|
How Many Credit Cards Should I Have?
It depends on a countless amount of factors. Ultimately, there isn't a correct number of credit cards to own, because the answer is highly individualized. Below, we outline some benefits and drawbacks of owning multiple credit cards. This is not an exhaustive list, but will help guide users to evaluate their need for an additional credit card.
Among their other advantages, credit cards offer users access to credit, security, convenience, and protection, along with the opportunity to build a credit history. New credit cards are aiming to become increasingly alluring to their users with the likes of travel perks, price matching features, and even early concert ticket access. Consumers should consider owning at least one credit card in order to take advantage of the ever-growing list of perks and features.
Benefits of More Credit Cards: One of the key benefits of having multiple credit cards is the ability to execute a transfer of its balance from one or more cards to one with a lower interest rate. Having a second credit card is also useful if you lose your first card, or the account is frozen due to suspicious activity. If you are trying to establish a credit history, opening up a new credit card can be a great way to achieve that. By opening multiple credit cards, you can take advantage of multiple rewards programs over various credit cards.
Drawbacks of More Credit Cards: While it's true that in the long term opening up a new credit card can help you to build credit, in the short term it will decrease your average account age, a factor used when calculating your credit score—with older being better in the eyes of card issuers. Another drawback of owning multiple credit cards are the annual fees you'd be forced to pay, assuming the credit cards charged those. Tracking your spending and your payments for multiple credit cards can also become cumbersome and difficult to manage.
Credit Card Ownership Statistics
While data on the average number of credit cards by age, gender, and ethnicity is unavailable, we can still evaluate what percentage of the population has a credit card. Below we examine trends on credit card ownership amongst the aforementioned groups.
Credit Card Ownership by Income
American residents with a high income have a greater incidence of owning credit cards. Of all Americans making more than $50,000 annually, 92% own at least one credit card. Only 3% of Americans making over $200,000 don't own a credit card. However, credit card ownership extends beyond high earners, though; 43% of people in the $1 to $4,999 income range have at least one credit card, for example:
|Annual Income||% of People Who Have a Credit Card|
|$1 to $4,999||43%|
|$5,000 to $14,999||47%|
|$15,000 to $24,999||64%|
|$25,000 to $39,999||79%|
|$40,000 to $49,999||83%|
|$50,000 to $74,999||92%|
|$75,000 to $99,999||94%|
|$100,000 to $149,999||95%|
|$150,000 to $199,999||97%|
|$200,000 or Higher||97%|
Credit Card Ownership by Gender
More than 97 million women and 95 million men in the United State have at least one credit card, which represents a total of 78% and 81%, respectively, within each group’s respective gender. Women are rejected from credit card applications at a higher rate than men. When applying for a new credit card 61% of men reported feeling very confident of approval, while only 56% of women reported feeling the same level of optimism.
Credit Card Ownership by Ethnicity
Individuals who identified as Black had the lowest percentage of ownership of credit cards at 63%. Hispanics followed, who had a 73% credit card ownership rate. Individuals who racially identified as Other represented the largest group of people who own at least one credit card at 86%, which is 7% higher than the U.S. average.