Average U.S. Checking Account Balance: A Demographic Breakdown

Average U.S. Checking Account Balance: A Demographic Breakdown

The median checking account balance for U.S. households in 2016 was $3,400, while the average balance was $10,545, according to data from the Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances. The average figure was much higher than the median due to the presence of some extremely high-income households in the survey.

In findings from the latest Survey of Consumer Finances in 2019, the Fed reported on broader "transaction accounts" — which include checking, savings, money market, call accounts and prepaid debit cards. For a closer look at the amounts most people keep in their transaction accounts, we broke the numbers down into several different demographic groupings.

Note: All data in this article are in 2019 dollars.

Average Transaction Account Balance in the U.S.

The Survey of Consumer Finances is conducted and published every three years, most recently in 2016. According to the Federal Reserve, "the survey data include information on families’ balance sheets, pensions, income, and demographic characteristics." Data from previous SCF years show significant changes in transaction account balances since 2001. Our analysis of average savings account balances based on the same data can be found here.

Year
Average Transaction Account Balance
Median Transaction Account Balance
3-Year Change in Median
2019$41,600$5,300+10.6%
2016$42,580$4,790+6.4%
2013$39,690$4,500+9.2%
2010$38,000$4,120-16.9%
2007$32,720$4,960-3.7%
2004$36,860$5,150-9.5%
2001$35,170$5,690+19.8%

Since 2010, the median balance of U.S. transaction accounts has increased in every survey year after falling in 2004, 2007 and 2010. Likewise, the mean (or average) account balance fell in 2004 and 2007 but actually rose in 2010, despite the Great Recession. This difference between median and mean can be explained by the unique structure of the Federal Reserve's survey.

The SCF is designed to provide information about a broad range of financial assets held by American consumers, and certain asset types—such as stocks and bonds—are mostly held by wealthier households. In order to provide statistically significant information about those assets, the survey includes a disproportionate amount of high-income participants, resulting in a higher mean balance for transaction accounts. To avoid this skewing effect, we focused our analysis on the median balance and how it changes when the participants are divided by income, age, gender and race.

Average Transaction Account Balance by Income

Among households with one or more transaction accounts, higher household incomes are associated with higher balances, with the difference growing more pronounced at higher income levels.

U.S. Transaction Account Balances by Income Percentile, 2016-2019

Income Range
2016 Average Balance
2019 Average Balance
3-Year Change
Less than 20th percentile$5,000$8,400+68.0%
20th to 39.9th percentile$11,170$11,260-0.8%
40th to 59.9th percentile$18,460$16,390-11.2%
60th to 79.9th percentile$25,410$28,680+12.9%
60th to 79.9th percentile$55,290$51,840-6.2%
90th to 100th percentile$243,410$229,030-5.9%

On average, transaction account balances in the highest income group outweigh those of any other group by a large margin. This final income group comprises a very broad range of incomes, with extremely high-income outliers skewing the average.

At the other end of the income spectrum, just 5.7% of participants under the 20th percentile of earners reported having no transaction accounts at all, a significant decrease from the 44.7% who didn’t have any in 1989, the first year the Fed began tracking this data.

Average Transaction Account Balance by Age

When we examine the average transaction account balances across different age groups, we generally found that older households have larger balances. Between 2016 and 2019, most age groups saw an increase in the average transaction account balance.

U.S. Transaction Account Balances by Age, 2016-2019

Age Group
2016 Average Balance
2019 Average Balance
3-Year Change
Under 35$10,200$11,250+10.3%
35-44$26,580$27,910+5.0%
45-54$43,460$48,200+10.9%
55-64$60,850$57,670-5.2%
65-74$71,980$60,410-16.1%
75+$54,700$55,320+1.1%

Here, the data show that people leave more and more in their transaction accounts as they grow older, except for those 75 or older. Out of the four demographic factors we assessed, grouping by age resulted in the smallest discrepancy between the average and median balance numbers.

Average Transaction Account Balance by Race

The SCF also asked households to identify with one of several racial categories. The data on transaction account balances revealed large differences among the four groups outlined in the Federal Reserve's survey.

U.S. Transaction Account Balances by Household Race, 2016-2019

Race
2016 Average Balance
2019 Average Balance
3-Year Change
Black$9,110$13,270+45.7%
Hispanic$17,730$11,860-33.1%
White Non-Hispanic$54,640$51,510-5.7%
Other$36,080$43,890+21.6%

Both the average and median balance numbers were at least three times greater for white and "other" households than for black and Hispanic households.

According to the Federal Reserve, the "other" category "includes respondents identifying as Asian, American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, other race, and all respondents reporting more than one racial identification."

Historical Data on U.S. Transaction Account Balances

Aside from the Survey of Consumer Finances, the Federal Reserve also tracks the monthly total of checkable deposits in the U.S. This includes the funds in all bank accounts that let the account-holder write checks against the balance.

While checkable deposits include transaction accounts, the term also encompasses money market accounts and even certain savings accounts that come with checks. The total for transaction accounts alone is bound to be somewhat smaller than the total for checkable deposits. As with savings deposits, the total checkable deposits in U.S. banks began increasing more rapidly between 2008 and 2009, coinciding with the beginning of the most recent recession.