Credit Card Debt in the United States: Trends and Issues

  • Credit Card Debt

The average American consumer receives their first credit card aged 20. For many, it’s an exciting time, further proof they have ascended into adulthood and are ready for financial independence. 

The delinquency rate is high on these cards, but the credit is low, often between $1,500 and $2,000, and it gives the borrower a way to improve their credit score.

It also adds another cog to the massive US debt machine, one that creates more debt, more delinquencies, and more problems than any other. But why is this, why is the average credit card debt so high, and can anything be done about it?

State of American Credit Card Debt

The average US debtor has over $6,500 worth of credit card debt and in total the country owes more than $1 trillion. The average credit card APR is around 18%, and if we plug these two figures into a monthly repayment calculator and suppose that the debtor seeks to clear the balance in 5 years, then the average minimum monthly repayment is close to $120 and they’ll repay over $14,000 in total.

That’s not great, but it’s not that bad either, at least not at first glance. The problem is, it supposes that the debtor will stop using all credit card accounts, accumulate no more debt, and meet all monthly repayments. If not, their credit score will suffer, that 5-year term will almost certainly be prolonged, and there will be serious financial implications.  

How Much Credit Card Debt Does the Average American Have?

The average credit card debt is said to be $6,506. According to data published by the Federal Reserve, store cards, which tend to have the highest rates, account for $1,901 of this total, while the average per account is $1,760. This data also tells us that the average amount spent on a card with no balance is $1,154, which means even individuals who clear their cards every month are spending in excess of $1,000 on them.

55% of Americans with credit cards have balances they don’t clear every month and credit card delinquency is increasingly common, accounting for around 2% of total credit accounts. 

Which States Have the Highest Credit Card Debt?

You might expect the highest revolving credit card debt to be in New York or California, but it’s actually in Alaska. Connecticut follows closely behind. New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, and Hawaii are next.

It’s no coincidence that these 6 states are all ranked in the top ten for the highest household income. The cost of living is also higher than the national average. The honor of the lowest average credit card debt goes to Iowa, Wisconsin, and Mississippi, where the cost of living is around 10% less than the national average.

Which Age Groups Have the Highest Debt?

Every few years the Federal Reserve conducts a survey that looks at debt across the age groups. Generational differences seem to have been in the news a lot lately, with Millennials and Baby Boomers often occupying opposing sides. It’s true that these generations have experienced life very differently with regards to opportunities, income, and debt, but they’ll both be happy to know that they have much less debt than other generations.

In fact, the last survey conducted by the Federal Reserve found that those aged 65 to 74 ($66,000) have a similar debt to those under the age of 35 ($67,400). Adults above the age of 75 have close to half that amount Gen Xers have the highest, nearly twice as much as Millennials and Baby Boomers.

Of course, we don’t need the Federal Reserve to tell us that debt is much less likely in those aged 75 and up. They’re often retired, have paid off the mortgage and are also more likely to have been in receipt of life insurance policies and inheritances. It will come as a surprise to many, however, to know that Millennials, on average, have half the debt of the generation that came before.

US Compared to Rest of World

Americans love credit, there’s no denying that. It’s very easy to acquire large amounts of debt in this country, and it’s just as easy to find a balance transfer card, personal loan, or debt consolidation loan to help you tackle it. 

But why are things so different here when compared to the rest of the world? 

Why is this Problem Worse in the United States?

American debtors have it much worse than debtors in other countries. Debt is more common, it tends to be much higher, and it’s widespread across all demographics. 

It’s easy to understand some of the reasons behind this difference, but not all. As an example, take student loan debt, which accounts for a significant proportion of young adult debt. The average cost of education is just under $25,000 when accounting for all institutions (private schooling costs around $42,000 while public schooling is below $18,000). 

Scholarships are available and many American families save money throughout the child’s lifetime so they can cover these fees when needed. The vast majority, however, are forced to acquire student loans, which can hang over their heads for years. In many European countries, college is free, and while there are some universities that charge, the fees tend to be significantly less, and the student loan systems are also more forgiving.

It’s the same with healthcare, which is cheap or free elsewhere, but hugely expensive in the US. However, it’s a different story with credit cards, so why is America’s average credit card debt so much higher than it is in other countries?

Why Average Credit Card Debt is Higher

There are many reasons America’s average credit card debt is higher than it is elsewhere, but the main reason is actually quite simple: American credit cards are better.

And we don’t mean that in a patriotic, “U. S. A!” way. 

Take the UK as an example, as our cousins across the pond have a very similar financial system. They have balance transfer cards, reward cards, credit scores, credit reports—they even have many of the same credit card companies that we have.

But they don’t enjoy the same freedom that Americans have when it comes to choosing a credit card. Competition isn’t as high, and rewards average a mere 0.5% cashback. US credit cards, on the other hand, offer as much as 5% through introductory offers and 1% to 2% thereafter.

The average APR is also lower here in the US, clocking in at 24.7% in the UK and less than 18% in the US. What’s more, surveys in 2018 and 2019 suggest that Americans use cash for just 14% of purchases, while in the UK it’s closer to 40%, and we know that credit leads to more impulsive purchases.

Simply put, the US is more obsessed with credit and banks, card providers, and lenders are taking advantage of that. That’s why the average credit card debt is much higher. 

Household Income vs Debt

The median household income in the US is over $62,000, but if you include student loans, credit cards, and mortgages, the average debt is close to $140,000. Take mortgages out of the equation and it drops below $40,000, but only just. 

Discretionary income is over $1,700 a month on average, but once you consider interest repayments, unexpected bills, vacations, college funds, and additional living expenses, it doesn’t leave much to clear those household debts. 

The Biggest US Credit Card Companies

The average credit card user has three cards. For most, their first card and their main card is provided by the same company that they bank with. The additional cards are reward cards and store cards as well as ones acquired solely for a balance transfer.

If you’re an average credit card user, there’s a high chance you will have at least one account with one of the following companies:


The first provider to offer a cashback scheme, Discover also has one of the best modern rewards cards. Known as the Discover It, this card rewards consumers with as much as 5% cashback.

Discover is mistakenly seen as a card that isn’t accepted in many retailer locations. However, while this may be true outside the United States, you shouldn’t have an issue using it domestically. A few years ago, a survey found that Visa and MasterCard were accepted in 9.5 million locations, while Discover was accepted in 9.3 million, just a fraction less.

American Express

American Express is one of the best providers of airmile programs and other rewards programs. It also has some of the most sought-after premium credit cards, which are offered to big spenders. 

AMEX is actually the card that is accepted the least of all major providers. The study mentioned above found just 6.9 million retailers had embraced AMEX. However, it is accepted in more international locations than Discover.

Although figures are constantly changing, the most recent estimates suggest that there are around 1 million more American Express cards than there are Discover cards in the United States.


The Chase Freedom card is the most popular credit card in the United States, offering consumers a reasonable APR as well as several perks. Chase also offers the Slate card and provides cards on behalf of several major airlines, including British Airways.

In most cases, these cards are offered only to consumers with above-average credit scores, but they are not necessarily considered premium or elite user cards.


Mastercard is not the most popular credit card in the United States. In fact, there are around 191 million users of this card and over 320 million users of the card in first place. However, it is a long way clear of the other providers on this list. If you combine all users of Chase, American Express, and Discover cards then the number you arrive at is only just higher than the number of Mastercard users.

These cards are accepted in locations across the United States and all over the world. It’s the second biggest in the US, but it’s also the second biggest pretty much everywhere else.


It’s probably no surprise to see that Visa is number 1, as this is the biggest provider not just in the United States, but all over the world. There are more Visa credit cards and debit cards in existence than any other type; it is accepted in more locations, and it’s a brand name that is as instantly recognizable as Coca Cola and Sony.

Pros and Cons of American Credit Cards


  • Multiple types of cards
  • Huge rewards
  • Many companies to choose from
  • Accepted in most outlets nationwide
  • Competitive rates
  • Options for no credit and poor credit


  • Can be too convenient
  • High-interest rates
  • Few options and high fees for consumers with bad credit

If you have a good debt-to-income ratio, a solid payment history, and you can meet your minimum payment obligations without issue, the US is a great place to acquire credit. Reward cards give you an incentive to spend, balance transfer cards allow you to move your debt around, and you get the feeling that every bank and lender wants your business and will trip over themselves to get it.

If you have none of those things, like so many millions of Americans, then it becomes a nightmare. There are debt counseling, debt settlement, and debt management services to help, but if you can’t meet your monthly payments, and you find yourself prioritizing debt repayments over food, clothing, and family days out, it can become depressing very quickly.

What Does the Future Hold?

Now we’ve looked at the current state of credit card debt in the US and have established that things look pretty bleak, that begs one question: How does the US government plan on approaching this issue?

The truth is, they’ll probably do very little. The only way to prevent those figures from rising is for American consumers to stop spending so much, but that hurts the economy. If you change the mentality of the average American consumer, focusing more on frugality and less on consumerism, the GDP takes a nosedive, the country’s biggest companies suffer, and America’s position on the world stage is notably weakened.

The world is moving away from cash and towards a completely digital payment structure. Cash will soon become a thing of the past and everything, from bills to bus fares and grocery shopping, will be purchased with credit, whether you’re using a credit card, a smartphone app, or some other new-fangled device. Once this happens, the issues facing credit card users become more pronounced and the country’s $14 trillion worth of consumer debt grows ever larger.

In simple terms, the situation will likely get worse for debtors and better for lenders, but if we continue down this road then maybe we’ll start seeing fewer punishments for credit card delinquencies and more options for struggling debtors.

There are over 100 million Americans crossing their fingers and hoping for just that.


Capital One Walmart Rewards Credit Card – Review

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Learn more about this card and find out how you can apply here.

The Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Card, also known as the Capital One Walmart Rewards Mastercard, is a cash-back credit card with no annual fee. It’s designed for regular Walmart shoppers, especially those who frequent, and backed by one of the most popular credit card issuers around (Capital One).

Purchases at and the Walmart app, including groceries and sales marked for in-store pickup, earn unlimited 5% cash back. You earn unlimited 2% back for purchases made inside Walmart stores, at eligible restaurants and travel merchants, and at Walmart and Murphy USA gas stations — making this a solid contender for one of the best gas credit cards as well. All other purchases, including purchases at Sam’s Club locations and, earn unlimited 1% cash back.

Beyond the rewards program, this card’s benefits are nothing to write home about, and the interest rates are on the high side. But the underwriting requirements are relatively loose, so this is an ideal first credit card for Walmart enthusiasts looking to build or improve their credit. With no annual fee and a rewards program that’s quite generous for Walmart and Murphy USA shoppers, the Walmart Rewards Card is worth keeping in your wallet.

Here’s how to get the most out of this card.

Key Features

These are the most important features and perks of this popular retailer credit card.

Sign-Up Bonus

For a limited time, get $50 when you spend $300 in purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn an additional 3% back when you use Walmart Pay for purchases made at Walmart stores for the first 12 months from account opening, for a total of 5% cash back on in-store Walmart purchases during the first 12 months.

Earning & Redeeming Cash-Back Rewards

The Walmart Rewards Card has a three-tiered cash-back program:

  • Online purchases made at and through the Walmart app, including grocery pickup purchases and other purchases marked for in-store pickup at any physical Walmart location, earn unlimited 5% cash back (rewards rate).
  • Purchases made at Walmart and Murphy USA gas stations (fuel stations), inside Walmart stores (store purchases completed at checkout), and with eligible restaurant and travel merchants earn unlimited 2% cash back.
  • All other purchases, including those made at Sam’s Club locations, earn unlimited 1% cash back.

Cash back is automatically delivered at the end of the billing cycle and does not expire as long as your account remains open and in good standing. Your best redemption option is to redeem accumulated cash back for statement credits against eligible purchases made during the prior 90-day period.

Possibility of Promotional Interest-Free Period

The Walmart Rewards Card does not advertise a continuous introductory interest-free or low APR purchase or balance transfer promotion. However, its terms do include mention of special promotional periods that can eliminate interest charges for as long as 24 months at a stretch.

The interest-free period may apply to specific purchases or any purchases made while the promotion is active, depending on the terms of the promotion and Walmart’s discretion. It doesn’t necessarily apply only at sign-up, making it more versatile than standard introductory interest-free promotions.

Important Fees

This card has no annual fee or foreign transaction fee.

Credit Required

This card requires an average or better credit score. Although serious credit blemishes such as recent personal bankruptcies are likely to disqualify your application, more minor issues may not. It’s therefore an ideal credit card for consumers in the process of mending their credit.


These are the most important advantages of the Capital One Walmart Rewards Mastercard.

  1. No Annual Fee. The Walmart Rewards Card doesn’t charge an annual fee. This is great news for frugal cardholders and occasional Walmart shoppers who want to keep this card in their wallets without paying for the privilege.
  2. 5% Cash Back at Frequent shoppers will love this card’s unlimited 5% cash back on the retail giant’s website. The same rate applies to grocery purchases and purchases marked for in-store pickup, so it’s perfect for bulky or heavy items for which shipping is costly or impractical.
  3. Potential for a Long Introductory APR Period. Although it doesn’t have a regular interest-free or low APR introductory promotion, this card does have periodic promotions that eliminate interest across the board or on specific purchases for as long as 24 months at a time. That’s great news for cardholders planning big-ticket purchases that they can’t afford to pay off right away.
  4. Loose Underwriting Requirements. This card is available to applicants with average or better credit. Although your approval is never guaranteed, you stand a better chance of making it through the application process with this card than with better-known cash-back cards that require excellent credit.
  5. Bonus Cash Back on Restaurant and Travel Purchases. This card earns 2% cash back on restaurant and travel purchases, making it a solid companion for diners and travelers without more generous travel rewards credit cards in their wallets.
  6. No Penalty APR. The Walmart Rewards Card doesn’t charge penalty interest on past-due payments. If you occasionally miss your statement due date due to irregular cash flow or unexpected expenses, you don’t have to worry about getting locked into a sky-high rate indefinitely.


Consider these drawbacks before applying for a Capital One Walmart Rewards Mastercard.

  1. Only 90 Days to Redeem Cash Back for Account Credits. When redeeming cash back for account credits, you’re only allowed to offset purchases going back 90 days. If you haven’t used your card for longer than that, you’ll need to make a purchase just to redeem your cash back.
  2. No Bonus Cash Back on Purchases Made at Sam’s Club Stores. This card earns just 1% cash back on purchases made at physical Sam’s Club stores. If you prefer to shop in person at the country’s second most popular warehouse store, you won’t get any more out of this card than any other standard-issue cash-back credit card — and possibly less. Several higher-earning cards such as the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card offer unlimited 1.5% cash back on all eligible purchases.

Final Word

The Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Card is a great entry-level cash back credit card for regular Walmart shoppers and drivers who encounter Walmart and Murphy USA stations in their daily travels.

Despite its relatively loose underwriting standards, the Walmart Rewards Card isn’t for everyone. If you don’t qualify for this card, look instead to the Walmart Credit Card, a store credit card with a similar rewards scheme.

The Walmart Credit Card isn’t backed by Mastercard or any other credit card payment network, so you can’t use it at merchants other than Walmart, but it’s nevertheless a great rewards-bearing vehicle for folks looking to build credit. And, considering you can buy pretty much anything at Walmart or, it’s versatile enough.


9 Ways to Save More at Sam’s Club

Sam's Club
Ken Wolter /

Savvy savers know that a warehouse club membership can easily pay for itself — and then some — over the course of a year. The key to saving money at these stores is to know how to shop wisely.

Sam’s Club is among the most popular of warehouse clubs. And with a little schooling, you can learn how to use your membership to save even more.

Sam’s Club benefits are based on your membership level:

  • Plus: $100
  • Club: $45

Following are some great ways members can save a little more at Sam’s Club. If you’re not ready to become a Sam’s Club member yet, check out “How to Shop at Sam’s Club Without Being a Member.”

Shop through a cash-back site

Online shopping
deineka /

You can save even more at Sam’s Club when you shop through a cash-back website. For example, Rakuten members recently could get up to 8% in cash back on Sam’s Club purchases simply by shopping through Rakuten.

Earn rewards for shopping

Dean Drobot /

Plus members at Sam’s Club get 2% back on qualifying purchases — up to $500 annually.

Your rewards are loaded onto the Sam’s Club Plus Member account about two months before the end of the membership year, the retailer says.

Get free and discount prescriptions

Senior prescription drugs
Syda Productions /

Millions of us take prescription drugs on an ongoing basis. Sam’s Club can help you save a bundle on these medications Five drugs are free for Plus members at a 30-day supply. They are:

  • Donepezil
  • Escitalopram
  • Pioglitazone
  • Vitamin D 50,000 IU
  • Finasteride

In addition, Plus members can get more than 600 generics for $10 or less. They can also save on many brand-name drugs.

This program is not available in every state. So, check with your Sam’s Club to see if you are eligible.

Save on your next pair of eyeglasses

An older woman in glasses smiles while holding a smartphone
VGstockstudio /

Warehouse club memberships can be a great way to save on eyewear. Plus members get 20% off a complete pair of eyeglasses and free shipping on contact lenses.

Earn cash back with a Sam’s Club credit card

Dining out
Andrey_Popov /

If you are looking for more rewards, consider opening a Sam’s Club Mastercard account. It’s available to both Plus and Club members.

You’ll receive cash back on the following purchases up to $5,000 annually:

  • 5% cash back on gasoline (on the first $6,000; then 1% after)
  • 3% cash back on dining
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases

If you are looking for other types of rewards — or simply want a credit card that offers other benefits, like a lower interest rate — go to the Money Talks News Solutions Center and find the right card for you.

Enjoy instant savings

88studio /

As a Sam’s Club member, you’ll be able to take advantage of Instant Savings — which are discounts on top of the warehouse club’s already low prices.

This benefit is available to both Plus and Club members.

Pick up perks at the Tire & Battery Center

Minerva Studio /

Sam’s Club members get free flat repairs. That’s true even if you purchase your tires elsewhere. Other benefits include free battery testing and free wiper-blade installation.

This is available to both Plus and Club members.

Grab discounted gift cards for your favorite retailers and restaurants

Gift cards
ymgerman /

Sam’s Club members can choose from an array of retailer gift cards that the warehouse club sells at a discount.

For example, we recently saw the following deals:

  • $50 of Spa Week gift cards for $37.50
  • $50 in Steak ‘N Shake gift cards for $37.50
  • $100 in Chili’s gift cards for $85.98

Get email alerts and check out Shocking Values

Man at computer
Iurii Stepanov /

Sign up for email alerts from Sam’s Club, and you’ll learn about ways to save when shopping online every day.

In addition, visit the Sam’s Club website’s Shocking Values page to find out about the latest deals. We recently saw a Honeywell 5000 Lumen LED utility light — normally priced at $159.98– for $64.98.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.


How to Maximize the Best Western Rewards Premium Mastercard

Not all co-branded hotel credit cards come with the most attractive features — such as travel credits or lounge perks — but that doesn’t mean they offer no value at all.

The Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard® is particularly useful in conjunction with the Best Western Rewards program, but it’s no secret that this program’s points aren’t worth the most among the available choices (0.7 cent a piece). The program doesn’t offer the most innovative perks, but its rewards earning rate on stays is quite high.

Overall, the card gets the job done for guests who often stay at Best Western properties, whether it’s for work, for leisure or both. Here’s how to get the most from the Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard®.

Ways to maximize the Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard®

Use your card at Best Western locations

As a Best Western Rewards member, you can choose a lodging option from more than 4,200 properties in over 100 countries and territories. Using the Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard® to book your stay allows you to maximize your rewards earning capability.

As a card member, you’ll earn 20 points per dollar spent at Best Western locations when you book directly with the chain: 10 base points for being a Best Western Rewards program member, and another 10 points for using your Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard®. Earning double rewards helps you get to free nights faster.

Book rooms online

If the bonus points aren’t enough to entice you to book directly with Best Western, your stay will also be cheaper if you book it at a special rate available to cardholders.

Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard® members receive a 10% discount on flexible-rate rooms booked online at Best Western’s site. Every bit of savings adds up, and the discount is worthwhile for brand loyalists who regularly spend money on nights with the chain.

Book free nights using the welcome bonus

The card also comes with a nice welcome bonus: 80,000 points when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 billing cycles after the account is opened, plus 40,000 points when you spend $5,000 every 12 billing cycles.

Free award nights within the Best Western Rewards program start at 5,000 points, which means that you can book several free nights with no blackout dates using your welcome offer.

Nerd tip: The more expensive your award nights are, the fewer free nights you’ll be able to book. It all depends on the property you wish to visit.

Take advantage of Platinum Rewards status

Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard® customers earn automatic Platinum Rewards status. This membership tier comes with a few extra perks, such as 15% bonus points on an eligible stay and complimentary water on arrival.

Although it’s not a huge rewards boost, it’ll help you earn free nights a little quicker than you would without any elite status.

Meet the annual spending threshold to earn bonus points

To earn even more bonus Best Western Rewards points, make sure to keep using your Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard® on everyday purchases. Once you spend $5,000 on the card during each membership year, you’ll earn another trove of bonus points to pad your point balance.

Whether you visit family in another city or go on a long weekend road trip, the extra points could come in handy.

The bottom line

The Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard® comes with a $89 annual fee, which means you have to consider its benefits and whether they outweigh the fee in your situation.

One easy calculation to determine its potential value is to multiply the annual fee by 10. If you spend this amount on stays at a flexible rate every year, and get the 10% discount back on every stay, your out-of-pocket cost will be $0. Everything you save beyond that will be an added bonus.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:


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Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.