Credit cards are a convenient tool for covering the cost of unforeseen financial emergencies and spreading out large payments over time. However, access to credit can differ from person to person. Age, income level, gender and race tend to influence the number of credit cards one holds, as well as the number and amount of credit lines that are extended.

Key credit card statistics

Credit Card
Bankrate insights
Here’s a look at the state of credit card ownership in the U.S.

Why use a credit card?

There are plenty of good reasons that apply for and use credit cards. The following are some of the most common:

  • Avoiding the need to carry cash. Dollars In your pocket can get lost, stolen or damaged. A credit card can make it safer and easier to purchase goods or services at nearly countless locations.
  • Keeping a cushion for emergencies. Especially if you don’t have cash on you or lack the necessary funds in a bank account you can withdraw, a credit card comes in handy when you need to pay for something quickly.
  • Getting rewarded for spending. Many credit cards pay you back in the form of points, cash back or other rewards most are every time you make a purchase.
  • Building credit. By using your card responsibly and paying off your balance on time each month, you can improve your credit score and overall credit rating.
  • Accessing purchase protections. Paying with a credit card is considered safer than using a debit card. Federal law stipulates that consumers are only liable for up to $50 for fraudulent credit card charges, although many credit cards actually offer a $0 liability policy for fraud.

Using a credit card to capitalize on these benefits can be a smart idea. But be mindful of your spending habits and ensure you pay off what you owe in full every month to avoid late fees, finance charges at high interest rates and potential harm to your credit over the long term.

Credit card debt statistics

Too many Americans find themselves in credit card debt nowadays, with the current state of the economy playing a role due to the legacy of high inflation, the rising cost of living and stagnant wages.

American card balances reached $1.08 trillion in the third quarter of 2023, according to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Additional Bankrate data finds that:

  • 47 percent of credit cardholders are currently carrying debt from month to month.
  • Unexpected or emergency expenses are the main reason for carrying credit card debt, with 43 percent citing this cause.
  • 38 percent of Americans who have not increased their emergency savings this year blame too many expenses while 21 percent blame having too much debt.

Americans love a vast array of credit cards, but it’s cash back cards that rule the roost. Consider that 45 percent of Ultimate Rewards points redeemed by Chase-branded cardholders have gone toward cash back in 2023. Compare that to other rewards opportunities like travel (30 percent of points redeemed) and gift cards and it’s clear that cash back is still king.

The right credit card for each consumer depends on the introductory offers — such as zero-interest periods or points bonuses — that are available, as well as their everyday spending needs. For instance, one consumer could see a greater benefit in having a card that rewards their gas and grocery purchases compared to a card that rewards travel purchases (though anyone who tends to carry a balance would benefit most from a low-interest credit card).

Most popular payment methods

Today, there are a variety of ways to pay for goods and services. Common payment options include using credit cards, debit cards, digital wallets, buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) options and good old-fashioned cash.

However, payment via debit or credit cards remains among the most popular options, and divvying out dollar bills is steadily diminishing as a go-to practice among consumers. Fifty-five percent of consumers use debit cards versus credit cards (47 percent), digital wallets/online payments (43 percent), cash (28 percent), direct debit (28 percent) and prepaid cards/vouchers (17 percent), according to data from Statista.


Money tip: Don’t sleep on digital wallets: transactions via this method are anticipated to grow to $929.8 billion in 2024 versus $802 billion in 2023, per Lightspeed.

Credit card ownership statistics

Despite this broad adoption, several factors influence who, exactly, has a credit card. Specific variables that affect credit card usage include where people live, their age, their gender, their race and their income level.

  • 190.6 million of the 258.3 million adults in the United States had a credit card account in their name as of the end of 2021 (the most recent date for which data is available). (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau)
  • Almost 4,000 issuers, along with dozens of co-brand merchant partners and four major networks, provide cards to these 190.6 million cardholders. (CFPB)
  • About 90 million consumers have only a general-purpose credit card, while 10 million carry only a private label card and 90 million have at least one of each. (CFPB)
  • In 2022, 77 percent of U.S. consumers over age 18 had at least one credit card. (Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta)
  • Over 75 percent of U.S. households have at least one general-use credit card. (CapitalOne)

Credit card ownership by state

New Jersey consumers have the most credit card accounts, with a total of 3.49 accounts on average, according to Experian data. Mississippi is on the other end of the spectrum, with an average of 2.57 credit card accounts. (Interestingly, Alaska is the state with the highest average credit card debt.)

Top 10 highest average credit cards by state

State Avg. number of credit cards
New Jersey 3.49
New York 3.34
Rhode Island 3.26
Hawaii 3.25
California 3.23
Connecticut 3.23
Massachusetts 3.21
Florida 3.19
Nevada 3.18
Maryland 3.16

Top 10 lowest average credit cards by state

State Avg. number of credit cards
Mississippi 2.57
Iowa 2.67
Alabama 2.69
Oklahoma 2.71
Arkansas 2.76
West Virginia 2.76
Indiana 2.77
Louisiana 2.77
Tennessee 2.77
Kentucky 2.78

Credit card ownership by age

Experian data finds that Baby Boomers have more credit cards than both younger generations and members of the older Silent Generation. This may be because, in addition to longer credit histories, older consumers generally have higher credit scores than younger consumers, giving them access to a wider range of credit cards.

However, Gen Z consumers are opening new credit card accounts at a faster rate than older cardholders. Many experts attribute this shift to more Gen Zers reaching adulthood and becoming old enough to apply for a new card.

Here’s a look at the average number of cards held by each generation.

Generation Average number of credit cards
Baby Boomers 3.4
Generation X 3.3
Millennials 2.7
Silent Generation 2.7
Generation Z 1.7

Credit card ownership by gender

The Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) prohibits credit discrimination based on various factors, including gender and sexual orientation. And on average, women have more open credit card accounts than men, according to Experian.

Gender Average number of accounts open
Male 3.6
Female 4.5

Another area of disparity among cardholders of different genders is credit limits. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia found that men have credit limits roughly $1,700 higher than women on average — and that $1,323 of this can’t be explained by differences in demographic characteristics, geographies, income and credit scores. Experts suggested one reason for this discrepancy could be the lack of equal pay.

Credit card ownership by race

While the ECOA also prohibits discrimination based on race or ethnicity, access to credit can vary widely between racial groups. While race itself doesn’t directly lower one’s score, Black and Hispanic consumers are more likely to experience challenges accessing credit. People of color are also more likely to be “credit invisible,” meaning that they have no credit history at all.

Here’s a look at how credit card participation varies from group to group, according to the Federal Reserve.

Race/ethnicity Share of adults with a credit card
Asian 92%
White 87%
Hispanic 73%
Black 71%

Credit card ownership by income

Income also plays a key role in issuers’ decisions. That’s because they tend to equate higher income with a greater likelihood that a cardholder will pay off their balance in full (and that, therefore, they’ll get their money back).

Here’s a look at the share of adults with a credit card in each income bracket, according to the Federal Reserve.

Income level Share of adults with a credit card
Less than $25,000 57%
$25,000 to $49,999 83%
$50,000 to $99,000 94%
$100,000 or more 98%


  • Determining your optimal number of credit cards is a personal decision. As a reference point, the average American typically holds between three and four credit cards. Your placement within or outside of this range should be influenced by various factors, including your ability to effectively manage payment due dates and consistently pay off credit card balances each month; your willingness to handle credit card annual fees, considering the value you receive in return; the practical number of cards you can regularly use for everyday purchases; evaluating the benefits of each card to avoid redundant features and expenses; and your preference for specific rewards and whether you aim to accumulate more than one type of rewards currency.

    That said, experts recommend having at least one to two credit cards, especially for emergencies.
  • The average credit score in the United States recently reached a new record: 718, according to data analytics company FICO. A FICO score of 718 is considered “good” credit on its 300-to-850 scale.
  • MYou can apply for a credit card of your choice from a credit card company like Chase, Citi, American Express, Discover, Capital One or Mastercard. Although you can apply for various cards in person (at a bank), over the phone, via email or by completing a paper application that you mail back, the easiest way is to apply online at the issuer’s website.

    Be ready to provide key info like your full legal name, date of birth, address, Social Security number and annual income. You may get an instant decision or it could take several days for an approval verdict.