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What Is the Average Credit Card Debt in the US?

Credit card debt and the amount of credit people are using are both increasing.

Adam Gault/Getty Images

Carrying thousands in credit card debt has become normal for many Americans. The average credit card balance as of the third quarter of 2022 was $5,910, according to a 2023 Experian report.

This year, overall credit card debt passed $1 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Though inflation has been cooling, repeated Fed rate hikes have also caused credit card interest rates to grow, making it more expensive to carry a balance. As the Fed continues to raise the federal funds rate, variable credit card APR, or annual percentage rate, increases will follow. Currently, average credit card rates are already over 20%, according to Bankrate, a CNET sister site. 

Given the latest Fed rate hike last month -- and the potential for additional rate hikes coming in September -- now is the time to tackle your credit card debt before interest rates rise even higher.

Below, we’ll break down what average credit card debt in the US looks like and walk you through a few strategies to pay off your credit card balances.

What’s the average credit card debt in the US?

We compiled credit card debt data using the latest reports from Experian and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Here’s a closer look at credit card debt by generation, education, race, income level and state.

Average US credit card debt by generation

GenerationAverage credit card debt
Baby boomers (born 1946-1964)$6,245
Generation X (born 1965-1980)$8,134
Millennials (born 1981-1996)$5,649
Generation Z (born 1997-2012)$2,854

This breakdown shows the average credit card debt and credit utilization in the US by generation, courtesy of Experian’s March 2023 data. Generation X carries the highest credit card debt, followed by baby boomers and millennials. 

Along with an increase in credit card debt comes an increase in credit utilization. Credit utilization -- the ratio that represents the amount of debt you carry compared to the amount of credit you have available -- has increased from 25.5% in 2021 to 28% in 2022. A high credit utilization rate means you’re using up more of your available credit, which can cause your credit score to drop.

Average US credit card debt by education

EducationMean credit card debt
High school or less$2,266
Some college$5,477
Two-year college$4,882
College or postgraduate$6,179

This data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s 2022 Making Ends Meet report shows that people with a college or postgraduate degree tend to have the highest credit card balances, while those whose highest degree is a high school diploma or less carry the lowest balances.

Average US credit card debt by race

RaceAverage credit card debt

The CFPB report also shows that Asian Americans tend to carry the highest average credit card balances, while Black and Hispanic people carry the lowest balances. However, it’s worth noting that Black, Hispanic and low-income Americans are more likely to be turned down for credit or not apply for a credit account for fear of being denied, according to the report.

Read more: Student Debt and the Racial Wealth Gap: Partial Forgiveness Alone Won’t Solve This Crisis

Average US credit card debt by income

Annual incomeMean credit card debt
$20,000 or less$1,572
$20,001 – $50,000$3,123
$50,001 – $80,000$4,530
$80,001 – $125,000$7,526
$125,001 or greater$7,431

Based on this data, people with higher incomes tend to carry higher average credit card balances. This isn’t particularly noteworthy since individuals who earn more may find it easier to access higher credit limits. However, let’s look at how the averages break down in comparison to an individual’s salary.

For example, let’s say Person A makes $30,000 a year and carries the average credit card debt for this bracket, $3,123. And Person B person makes $70,000 a year and also carries the average credit card debt for their income bracket, $4,530. 

While Person B technically has more in credit card debt, that’s not the full picture. Person A is carrying credit card debt equal to approximately 10% of their income, while Person B’s credit card debt is equal to only about 6% of their income. So, it may be easier for Person B to repay their debt, even though they have a higher balance.

Average US credit card debt by state 

Experian’s 2023 state-by-state credit card debt overview shows states with the most credit card debt on average -- all above the nation’s $5,910 average.  

Here are five states/areas with the highest balances:

  • Alaska: $7,338
  • Washington, DC: $6,904
  • Connecticut: $6,825
  • New Jersey: $6,819
  • Maryland: $6,668

Meanwhile, these states kept the average credit card debt much lower, with the least debt in midwest states: 

  • Mississippi: $4,912
  • Kentucky: $4,894
  • Iowa: $4,811
  • Wisconsin: $4,808

The map below shows each state’s average credit card debt, based on Experian’s findings:

How rising interest rates affect credit card debt

When the Federal Reserve increases the federal funds rate, increases in variable APRs for credit cards tend to follow. 

July’s rate hike pushed the federal rate range to 5.25% – 5.50%, and it’s possible there will be more rate hikes before the year ends. That also means outstanding credit card balances will become more expensive as credit card APRs rise. 

When your credit card APR rises, you accrue more interest on unpaid balances, which can add months or even years to your repayment time frame while costing you more overall. That’s why experts highly recommend paying your variable interest debt off as soon as possible.

How credit card debt impacts your credit score

The more credit card debt you have, the more likely it will impact your credit score. Your credit utilization -- the amount of debt you carry compared to the amount of credit you have available -- plays a significant role in determining your credit score.

As your credit card debt grows, your credit utilization ratio increases, causing your credit score to drop. Lenders may see you as a riskier borrower if you use a high percentage of your available credit, lowering your chances of approval for other credit cards or loans.

When you pay down your credit cards in full each month, you may see an increase in your credit score as your credit utilization decreases. Paying your bill on time also helps boost your credit score.

Ways to pay off credit card debt

Juggling everyday expenses, saving money and paying down debt can be challenging. If you’re struggling with credit card debt, here are a few debt payoff methods to help clear your balance.

1. Create a budget and repayment goal

There may be room in your budget to put more money toward your credit card debt. Take a look at your expenses to see where you can scale back, even temporarily. Consider canceling streaming subscriptions or services you no longer use. Budgeting apps can also help you set up a budget to see where your money is going and if you can cut any expenses. Once you understand your budget, you can create a debt repayment plan.

There are many different strategies for repaying credit card debt. Always ensure you’re paying the minimum payment in full and on time. If you can, pay more than the minimum to reduce interest and help pay down your debt sooner.

You can prioritize different credit card debts by concentrating on the card with the highest APR, also known as using the avalanche method. You’ll still pay the minimum on all your cards but put extra money towards the card with the highest interest rate. This can help prevent you from accumulating too much interest while paying down your debt.

Alternatively, you could pay down the cards with the smaller balances first, which can help you build momentum and see more progress faster. This is known as the snowball method.

2. Get a balance transfer card 

Opening a credit card with an introductory 0% APR on balance transfers can help you pay off your credit card debt while saving money on interest. A balance transfer card lets you combine different credit card balances onto one card so you can combine your debts into one monthly payment plan and potentially avoid interest during the introductory period. 

Balance transfer cards that offer 0% introductory periods typically come with balance transfer fees that you should consider. And, if you can’t pay your balance in full by the end of the introductory period, the credit card’s APR will kick in, and you’ll begin accruing interest on your outstanding balance.

3. Consolidate your debt 

If you need to pay off several credit cards, it may be more affordable to consolidate your debt with a personal loan. You’ll have a fixed interest rate and predictable monthly payment, which can be easier to manage than multiple credit card payments with different APRs. A personal loan also tends to have a lower interest rate than most credit cards.

This payoff method will require a credit check and other factors to determine your chances of approval. 

4. Consider adding a new income stream

If you want to pay off your debt faster, consider taking on a side hustle to earn some extra money. Side hustle opportunities might include starting your own business, freelancing, driving for ride-hailing services or even walking dogs. You also can try to sell gently used items that you don’t use to put a few extra bucks toward your debt. 

As you earn more money from your side hustle, add it to your debt payoff plan.

The bottom line

The average American credit card debt is in the thousands. As inflation continues to push up the prices for many everyday essentials, many people are turning to credit cards to bridge the gap. But paying off this debt is also becoming more expensive as APRs rise. Paying more than your minimum credit card payment can reduce the amount you’ll pay in interest. If you can’t afford your credit card payments, consider a 0% introductory balance transfer card, personal loan or other debt repayment strategy.

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.

Dashia is a staff writer for CNET Money who covers all angles of personal finance, including credit cards and banking. From reviews to news coverage, she aims to help readers make more informed decisions about their money. Dashia was previously a staff writer at NextAdvisor, where she covered credit cards, taxes, banking B2B payments. She has also written about safety, home automation, technology and fintech.