Credit card statistics 2021

More than 66% of American adults have at least one credit card.

These days, it seems most consumers prefer the convenience of carrying credit cards as opposed to cash. But all of this constant card usage left us wondering — what are Americans using their credit cards for?

Which issuers do we prefer? What are the top credit card complaints? And how much are we spending? Here’s a look at some of the more interesting statistics surrounding credit cards from the most recently available data.

2018 Credit Card stats at a glance

Overall credit card debt$807 Billion
Average credit limit$22,589
Average credit card account history7 years, 2 months
Average card balance:$6,028

Changes in credit card accounts over the years

Market trends are always changing. So are the number of credit card accounts opening and closing year after year, likely in reaction to the economic climate. And thanks to a growing economy, the number of credit card accounts open in the US is on the rise.

Here’s how the number of active credit card accounts has shifted over the last 10 years.

YearNumber of credit card accounts

Top credit card complaints in 2018

Credit card representatives are fielding calls nearly 24/7, answering a never-ending stream of emails and working on live chat to help resolve issues in realtime.

When it comes to credit card customer service, these are the complaints that are popping up the most among surveyed cardholders.

Credit card complaintsPercentage of complaints in 2018
Problem with a purchase shown on your statement25%
Fees or interest14%
Other features, terms, or problems14%
Problem when making payments10%
Getting a credit card10%
Closing your account8%
Advertising and marketing, including promotional offers6%
Problem with a credit report or credit score6%
Trouble using your card4%
Struggling to pay your bill3%

Most viewed credit card by type

When consumers are looking for a new credit card, what types of cards are most grabbing their attention? Here are the most viewed card types among people browsing cards according to Experian CreditMatch visitors as of 2019.

Sources: Experian’s 2019 State of Credit Cards Report

How Americans choose their credit cards

While no annual fee credit cards are one of the most looked at credit card types, how Americans ultimately chose their credit card came down to different factors. Here are the biggest influences on a consumer’s ultimate choice of one credit card over another.

Sources: 2018 TSYS Consumer Payment Study

Credit card balances delinquent by 60 days or more

  • As of 2018 Q4, 2.0% of all credit card balances were delinquent by 60 days or more.

Credit card accounts delinquent by 60 days or more

  • As of 2018 Q4, 1.5% of all credit card accounts were delinquent by 60 days or more.

Credit card accounts delinquent by within 365 days.

  • As of 2018, roughly 9% of general purpose cardholders had at least one severe delinquency within the previous 12 months.

Sources: CFPB 2019 Consumer Credit Card Market Report

Comparison of Visa and Mastercard purchase volume

These two titans of the credit card industry have soaring purchase volume numbers in the US and around the world every year. In 2018, Visa maintained its lead, bringing in a world purchase volume of $7.563 billion.

See the visual below to compare purchase volume in 2017 and 2018 for both Visa and Mastercard.

2018 United States purchase volume$1,536 billion$3,725 billion$2,189 billion
2018 World purchase volume$4,338 billion$8,452 billion$4,114 billion
% United States purchase volume of world48.9%37.3%11.6%
2017 World purchase volume$7,562 billion$3,814 billion$3,748 billion
% United States purchase volume of world44.1%36.3%7.8%

Source:’s analysis of 2018 and 2017 SEC reports for Mastercard and Visa

Credit and debit purchase volume for Visa and Mastercard

To credit, or to debit: that is the question. Spending preferences are unique to each individual situation, which is why it’s interesting to put these numbers side by side to see how Americans spend with their plastic.

We’ve put the top brands side by side and focused on the main question that gets asked at the register — credit or debit?

Purchase volume (credit and charge)VisaMastercardDifference
2018$1,956 billion$811 billion$1,145 billion
2017$1,777 billion$743 billion$1,034 billion
Purchase volume (debit and prepaid)VisaMastercardDifference

Sources:’s analysis of 2018 and 2017 SEC reports for Mastercard and Visa

Number of transactions by card brand

How many times do you swipe your Visa card each day? Whether it’s one or five, your swipe contributed to the 22+ million Visa transactions that happened in 2018.

See how many transactions (credit and debit) took place in 2018 and 2017 for both Visa and Mastercard.

Number of transactions (credit and charge)VisaMastercardDifference
2018$23,885 million$9,073 million$14,812 billion
2017$1,777 million$743 million$1,034 million
Number of transactions (debit and prepaid)VisaMastercardDifference

Sources:’s analysis of 2018 and 2017 SEC reports for Mastercard and Visa

Average credit card transaction by card brand

Does one credit card brand appeal to bigger spenders? Well, not so much — the difference between Visa and Mastercard credit and debit transactions didn’t even reach the $10 mark. However, people definitely purchase more with their credit cards than their debit cards.

Here’s how much the average transaction amounts to for Visa and Mastercard customers.

Average credit card transaction$82$89.12-$7.12
Average debit card transaction$37.89$38.86$38.86
Difference between average credit and debit$42.71$50.26-$7.55

Sources:’s analysis of 2018 and 2017 SEC reports for Mastercard and Visa

See statistics on balance transfer credit cards

Top US credit card issuers by outstanding balance

Putting Visa and Mastercard aside, we wanted to know just how much market share each issuer held with US consumers at large. Here’s a breakdown of the top credit card issuers based on consumer outstanding balances.

Sources: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s 2017 Consumer Credit Card Market Report

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