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Credit card statistics Canada 2023

Find out how Canadians use their credit cards with our comprehensive collection of credit card statistics, facts and figures.

Many Canadians use credit cards to manage their finances. They’re convenient, help you build a credit score and can earn you reward points. However, they’re also easy to abuse and their use can result in a downward debt spiral. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the state of Canada’s credit card use.

Quick credit card facts and statistics

1. Total credit card debt in Canada: $96.9 billion(1)
2. Average Canadian credit card balance: $3,909(2)
3. Number of credit cards in Canada: 94.8 million(3)
4. Average number of cards per person: 2.5(4)
5. Average credit limit on new cards: $5,800(5)
6. Number of annual credit card payment transactions in Canada: 6.6 billion(6)
7. Annual value of credit card payment transactions in Canada: $591 billion(7)

How many people have a credit card, and how much do they spend?

Credit cards have long been a popular payment method among Canadian consumers, and there are no signs of that changing any time soon. There are currently 94.8 million credit cards in circulation in Canada(8) — including 76.2 million Visa and Mastercard cards.(9)

On average, Canadians spend $90 per credit card transaction,(10) while the average credit card balance in Canada is $3,909.(11)

Canadian credit card statistics

To help illustrate the popularity of cashless payments, here are details about the popularity of credit cards among Canadians.

Credit cards are the most popular payment method in Canada

In 2021, credit cards were the most popular payment method in Canada and were responsible for 6.6 billion payment transactions — one-third (33%) of all transactions.

Credit cards are also the most popular payment method for both online and in-store purchases and between 2015 and 2021, the volume of credit card transactions increased by 33%.(12) As a result, the total value of Canadian credit card transactions in 2021 was $591 billion.(13)

How Canadians use credit cards

The average credit card user spends more than $2,200 per month,(14) with cards used regularly for both in-store and online purchases.

While shopping — both online and in person — is still popular with credit card users, other types of transactions are increasing in popularity. In 2021, 74% of Canadians used their credit cards for automatic payments,(15) while 52% of Canadians used credit cards to pay a bill or household expenses in 2021.(16)

In 2022, credit cards accounted for 50% of point-of-sale transactions and 42% of e-commerce transactions(17) and in the 12 months leading up to April 2023, 70% of Canadian adults used a credit card to pay for essential purchases.(18)

Credit cards most popular form of payment in Canada

Credit cards are predicted to remain Canada’s most popular payment method over the next few years — and their popularity continues to grow with 15% of people opening a new credit card in the 12 months leading up to April 2023.(19) By 2028, 84.58% of the Canadian population is predicted to be using credit cards.(20)

This reliance on credit cards is due, in part, to how satisfied Canadians are with this form of revolving credit. More than 3 in 4 (84%) of Canadians are satisfied with their credit cards and 86% say credit cards offer great value.(21)

But which bank offers the best credit cards? In the J.D. Power 2022 Canada Credit Card Satisfaction Study, Tangerine Bank ranked highest in overall customer satisfaction for a fourth consecutive year, with a score of 815. Canadian Tire (800) ranked second and American Express (796) ranked third.(22)

5 reasons why Canadians use credit cards

There are plenty of reasons to use credit cards. Here are the top five reasons Canadians use credit cards.

  1. To take advantage of discounts and loyalty rewards — 58%
  2. Because credit cards are widely accepted — 45%
  3. Like the speed of credit card payments — 44%
  4. Find cards to be easier or more convenient than other payment methods — 37%
  5. Believe that credit cards make it easier to control or keep track of expenses — 25%(23)

Canadians like being rewarded for their spending

The primary reason Canadians like credit cards is the rewards — with 82% of Canadians saying that rewards are a priority when selecting a credit card.(24) The most popular reward programs are:

A large portion of rewards cardholders also appreciate how credit cards can help in managing day-to-day spending, with 33% of Canadians redeeming credit card rewards to pay for essential purchases in the 12 months to April 2023.(26)

That said, many of us aren’t making the most of the rewards and perks credit card providers offer. Just over a quarter (27%) of credit card said they had a good understanding of the benefits and features available on their current credit card.(27)

Credit card fraud is a problem

Credit card fraud accounted for 6.5% of global digital fraud in 2022.(28) In Canada, credit card fraud is the most commonly reported (21%) type of fraud, with debit card fraud (8%) and online phishing scams (8%) also a reported problem. (29)

Despite advancements in fraud protection — with instant text alerts or email updates from the credit card provider — most Canadians don’t opt into these fraud protection services with only 42% of cardholders opting for email or text alerts for every transaction on their credit or debit card.(30)

Credit card debt in Canada

One of the biggest risks with credit card spending is getting in over your head — and racking up debt. As of May 2023, total credit card debt in Canada is $96.9 billion.(31) In fact, 43% of Canadians currently have credit card debt. Of those people, 40% think it will take them six months or longer to pay off the debt, and 11% don’t know how long it will take to pay off.(32)

As of Q1 2023, the average credit card balance for Canadians was $3,909,(33) — with just over half (58%) of Canadians always paying their credit card balances in full each month.(34)

Credit card debt appears to be a growing problem. In 2022, the volume of 90 or more days of non-payment delinquencies rose to 23%.(35) The number of Canadians carrying a balance on their cards also rose. As of December 2022, there were 300,000 more cardholders now carrying a balance compared with a year earlier.(36) At this point in time, 54% of credit card customers are classified as financially unhealthy.(37)

How many people have a debit card, and how much do they spend?

They may not be as popular as credit cards, but debit cards still form an important part of the Canadian payments landscape. In 2021, debit cards were the second most popular payment method in Canada and were used for six billion payment transactions. That’s 30% of all transactions, with total debit card transactions in Canada in 2021 totalling $273 billion.(38)

The average debit card transaction value is $46,(39) with 52% of Canadians making one or more debit card purchases in the past week,(40) while 68% of Canadians using contactless payments when making in-store debit card purchases.(41)

5 reasons why Canadians use debit cards

There are a variety of reasons why Canadians choose to use debit cards over credit cards. The top five reasons are:

  1. Ability to make fast purchases — 51%
  2. Ability to use your own funds rather than borrow money — 42%
  3. Easy payment option (accepted widely) — 40%
  4. Easier or more convenient than other payment methods — 35%
  5. Easier to control or keep track of expenses — 26% (42)

Prepaid card statistics

The total prepaid card transaction volume in Canada was $294 million in 2021, while the total prepaid card transaction value was $17.6 billion.(43) The average prepaid card transaction value is $60.(44)

The top five reasons Canadians use prepaid cards include:

  1. Fast payment method — 29%
  2. Widely accepted — 25%
  3. Receive discounts/loyalty rewards — 24%
  4. Make it easier to keep track of expenses — 23%
  5. More secure than other payment methods — 22%(45)

17 interesting credit card facts

Credit card fact #1 – When first launched, credit cards were more like today’s department store cards — offered by individual stores and only for use at specific retail stores. The first credit card to be offer the ability to use at multiple locations was the US Diner’s Club, in 1950 – it was good for use in 27 restaurants in New York City.(46)

Credit card fact #2American Express issued its first credit card in 1958 and its Centurion card today has a US$5,000 annual fee and a minimum spend requirement of US$250,000 a year.(47)

Credit card fact #3 – Visa began life as BankAmericard, offered by Bank of America in 1958. It became Visa in 1976.(48)

Credit card fact #4 – Visa stands for Visa International Service Association.(49)

Credit card fact #5 – The Visa logo colours represent the blue of the sky and the gold of the hills in California where Bank of America was founded.(50)

Credit Card Fact #6Mastercard began life as MasterCharge and was formed by four Californian banks in 1967. It became Mastercard in 1979 and it was the first card to use holograms.(51)

Credit card fact #7 – It is against the merchant agreements of Mastercard, Visa, and American Express for a vendor to require you to provide your phone number, home address or other personal information. You also do not need to present a driver’s license or spend above a certain purchase amount.(52)

Credit card fact #8 – You do not have to sign anything to agree to the cardholder agreement. You are agreeing to this when you first use your card.(53)

Credit card fact #9 – If you have several debts on one card at different interest rates, payments are applied to the balance with the highest interest rate first.(54)

Credit card fact #10 – Minimum payments are so low because it allows the consumer to carry more debt. Someone who can only pay $100 per month can typically have a credit limit as high as $5,000.(55)

Credit card fact #11 – Credit cards are all the same shape and size, as their dimensions are governed by the ISO 7810 standard, an international standard for identification cards.(56)

Credit card fact #12 – Credit card numbers conform to the Luhn algorithm, which is a simple checksum test on the number.(57)

Credit card fact #13 – There are generally two types of magnetic strips: high-coercivity and low-coercivity. High coercivity is stronger and more durable.(58)

Credit card fact #14 – Higher-coercivity strips are usually black and low-coercivity strips are dark brown. Low-coercivity strip cards can be scrambled by weak magnetic force, including mobile phones.(59)

Credit card fact #15 – Visa and Mastercard operate zero-liability policies with respect to fraudulent use.(60)

Credit card fact #16 – The average Canadian credit score is 672, according to 2022 data from over two million Borrowell members.(61)

Credit card fact #17 – In 1977, the average charge on a Visa and Mastercard credit card in Canada was $30.46.(62)

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Written by

Tim Falk

Tim Falk is a freelance writer for Finder. Over the course of his 15-year writing career, he has reported on a wide range of personal finance topics. Whether you're investing in stocks and ETFs, comparing savings accounts or choosing a credit card, Tim wants to make it easier for you to understand. When he’s not staring at his computer, you can usually find him exploring the great outdoors. See full profile

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