Question: How Much Credit Card Debt Are Americans Carrying?

Apr 13, 2017

Answer (from Federal Reserve analysis reported in WSJ): After restating earlier figures, the  level of credit card debt hit $1 Trillion in December of 2016, a level it last seen prior to the recession.

Here is a chart showing how credit card balances (a.k.a. revolving consumer credit) has varied over the past decade:

credit card debt feb 2017

Fun facts from a CBS article:

  • Credit cards are the third consumer asset class to cross the $1 trillion threshold with auto loans and student loans already in excess of that dollar amount.
  • Delinquencies on credit card debt (a measure of nonpayment): 2.3% today vs. peak of 6.8% in 2009
  • Average interest rate: 13.9% on existing cards
  • Annual Interest being paid by those with credit card balances = $139 billion ($1 trillion X 13.9%). Wowsa!
    • Might be interesting to ask students to research what $139 billion would buy
  • Annual interest being paid by those who pay their credit card balances every month = $0


Interested in credit card activities? Let your students analyze a few student profiles and complete this NGPF Activity: “Analyze: Should They Open A Credit Card?

About the Author

Tim Ranzetta

Tim's saving habits started at seven when a neighbor with a broken hip gave him a dog walking job. Her recovery, which took almost a year, resulted in Tim getting to know the bank tellers quite well (and accumulating a savings account balance of over $300!). His recent entrepreneurial adventures have included driving a shredding truck, analyzing executive compensation packages for Fortune 500 companies and helping families make better college financing decisions. After volunteering in 2010 to create and teach a personal finance program at Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto, Tim saw firsthand the impact of an engaging and activity-based curriculum, which inspired him to start a new non-profit, Next Gen Personal Finance.

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