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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.
Here’s a look at the state of credit card ownership in the U.S.
Key credit card statistics
- Seventy-seven percent of U.S. adults had at least one credit card (Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta)
- The average American has 3.84 credit cards (Experian)
- There were 441 million open credit card accounts in the U.S. as Q3 2022 (American Bankers Association)
- The average American household’s credit card balance was $5,910 in 2022 (Experian)
- U.S. consumers used their credit cards to complete 28 percent of transactions in 2021 (Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta)
Most popular type of credit cards
Americans tend to favor a wide variety of credit cards, but cash back credit cards lead the pack. According to Bankrate’s December 2021 credit card features survey, more than 4 in 10 (41 percent) U.S. adults listed cash back as their favorite credit card feature — by far the most popular answer.
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).
Credit card ownership statistics
The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta found that in 2022, 77 percent of U.S. consumers over age 18 had at least one credit card.
Despite this broad adoption, there are a number of factors that 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.
Credit card ownership by state
According to Experian data, New Jersey consumers have the most credit card accounts, with a total of 3.49 accounts on average. Mississippi was on the other end of the spectrum, with an average of 2.57 credit card accounts.
Top 10 Highest Average Credit Cards by State
|State||Avg. Number of Credit Cards|
Top 10 Lowest Average Credit Cards by State
|State||Avg. Number of Credit Cards|
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|
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|
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|
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%|
The bottom line
A variety of factors can directly and indirectly influence the number of credit cards a person has, from the state where they live to their age, gender, racial identity and income level.
However, one thing is clear: Credit cards, when used responsibly, can help you meet everyday needs and establish a positive credit history that will open doors in the future. To make sure you’re taking full advantage of their benefits, take the time to educate yourself on best practices for managing credit cards, as well as on the best cards for your spending and lifestyle.