How Credit Card Usage Differs by Generation - Experian (2024)

In this article:

  • Baby Boomers, Gen X Have Most Credit Cards on Average
  • Youngest Generations See Fastest Credit Card Balance Growth During Pandemic
  • Credit Utilization Ratios Increased for Gen Z and Millennials
  • All Generations Saw Credit Score Growth in 2021

Younger Americans are racking up credit card debt faster than older generations. In the time since the U.S. economy came to a pandemic-induced halt in the spring of 2020, their credit card debt has grown more on average, while older generations have seen reductions in average credit card debt balances, according to Experian.

To better understand how credit card use compares across generations, Experian analyzed spending habits among different age groups using data from the first quarter (Q1) of 2022―the most recent data available. As it turns out, it's older generations that have been able to pay down more credit card debt in recent years. The silent generation, born from 1928 to 1945, and baby boomers, born from 1946 to 1964, also have the highest average credit scores of any generation.

But nobody uses credit like Gen Xers, who are entering or already in their peak earning years. Born between 1965 and 1981, they have carried an average credit card debt of $7,000 since the beginning of the pandemic.

All adults under the age of 42 are accounted for among millennials and Generation Z—the oldest members of Gen Z are turning 25 this year and the oldest millennials are turning 41. It's these younger Americans whose average credit card debt has increased the most compared to other generations over the past two years.

Read on to learn more about which U.S. consumers are carrying the most credit debt—and how credit card habits change across generations.

Baby Boomers, Gen X Have Most Credit Cards on Average

Americans who have reached middle age or older—Gen X and baby boomers—hold the most credit cards, with an average of more than four per person. Members of Gen Z held just half that—among those old enough to have credit cards, that is. (Gen Zers are ages 9 to 25 this year.) The youngest adult consumers, ages 18 to 25, had an average of two credit cards each, with only a slight increase from 2021 and 2022.

Average Number of Credit Cards by Generation

Youngest Generations See Fastest Credit Card Balance Growth During Pandemic

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gen Z's and millennials' credit card debt has grown at a faster rate than other generations.

The average credit card balance for Gen Z grew from $1,947 in April 2020 to $2,443 in January 2022—a 25.5% increase. The average credit card balance among millennials grew 13.8% over that same period. Gen X credit card balances also grew, but at a near-zero rate of 0.5%.

The oldest Americans—the silent generation and baby boomers—paid down credit card debt over those two years in large enough numbers to drive their average balance down. Baby boomers saw their average credit card balance decline more than 6% from April 2020 to January 2022, and the silent generation's average balance declined more than 4% during that same period.

Average Credit Card Balance by Generation

Credit Utilization Ratios Increased for Gen Z and Millennials

Looking at credit utilization, which measures credit card balances against credit limits, baby boomers and those in the silent generation use the least amount of their available credit on average compared with other generations. Because these consumers have had many more years to accrue savings and build credit histories on average than younger generations, they often enjoy more financial security and have the benefit of higher credit limits.

In the first quarter (Q1) of 2022, Gen Z used 23% of their available credit, which is the highest average utilization rate of any generation. Having less experience and time to build their credit history, members of Gen Z have lower credit scores on average and are more likely to have lower credit limits as well.

Utilization by Generation

All Generations Saw Credit Score Growth in 2021

Whether a recent college graduate or preparing for retirement, consumers saw their FICO® Score averages increase slightly between Q1 2021 and Q1 2022.

The older the credit account holder, the higher their FICO® Score tends to be on average. Baby boomers and the silent generation have had decades longer to establish their payment history, length of credit history and different types of credit accounts, among other financial activities that are noted in a person's credit report. Baby boomers and the silent generation boast average FICO® Scores higher than the national average of 714, according to Experian.

Average FICO® Scores by Generation

Methodology: The analysis results provided are based on an Experian-created statistically relevant aggregate sampling of our consumer credit database that may include use of the FICO® Score 8 version. Different sampling parameters may generate different findings compared with other similar analysis. Analyzed credit data did not contain personal identification information. Metro areas group counties and cities into specific geographic areas for population censuses and compilations of related statistical data.

FICO® is a registered trademark of Fair Isaac Corporation in the U.S. and other countries.

Find Out More About Consumer Credit Card Usage

  • How Many Consumers Have a Credit Card, Personal Loan or Both?
    More than half of consumers with good credit scores carry an average of more than $8,000 in credit card debt, but haven’t used a personal loan to potentially pay...
  • Millennial Credit Card Balances by State
    We analyzed millennial credit card debt, along with income and creditworthiness, state-by-state to figure out what makes this generation’s finances tick.
  • How Many People Have Credit Card Debt?
    The U.S. has over $756 billion in outstanding credit card debt and approximately 95% of adults have an open credit card account.
  • Here’s How U.S. Credit Card Debt Has Changed in Five Years
    Have Americans paid down their credit card debt in the past five years? Experian looked at the average credit card balance at the national and state level.
  • Here’s How Credit Card Debt Varies By State
    See how you compare to the average in your state with this analysis of credit card debt across the U.S. compiled by Experian.

As an expert in consumer credit trends and financial analysis, I bring a wealth of knowledge to dissect the information presented in the article about credit card usage across different generations. My expertise is grounded in a thorough understanding of credit data analysis and trends, making me well-equipped to provide insights into the nuances of credit card habits across age groups.

Let's break down the key concepts mentioned in the article:

  1. Generational Credit Card Ownership:

    • Baby Boomers and Gen X, representing middle-aged and older demographics, have the highest average number of credit cards, with over four cards per person.
    • Gen Z, the youngest generation (ages 9 to 25 in the year mentioned), holds an average of two credit cards per person.
  2. Credit Card Debt Growth During the Pandemic:

    • Gen Z and Millennials have experienced faster growth in credit card debt since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • Gen Z's average credit card balance increased by 25.5% from April 2020 to January 2022, while Millennials saw a growth of 13.8% over the same period.
    • Gen X also experienced credit card balance growth, albeit at a minimal rate of 0.5%.
    • Older generations, including Baby Boomers, managed to reduce their average credit card balances during the same period.
  3. Credit Utilization Ratios:

    • Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation have the lowest average credit utilization ratios, indicating they use the least amount of their available credit on average.
    • Gen Z, with less experience and shorter credit histories, has the highest average utilization rate at 23%.
  4. Credit Score Growth:

    • All generations witnessed an increase in their FICO® Scores between Q1 2021 and Q1 2022.
    • Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation, having more extended credit histories, achieved higher average FICO® Scores compared to the national average of 714.
  5. Credit Card Debt Across Generations:

    • Gen Xers, currently in or entering their peak earning years, carry an average credit card debt of $7,000 since the beginning of the pandemic.

This comprehensive breakdown highlights the contrasting credit card usage patterns among different generations, demonstrating the impact of age, financial habits, and economic circ*mstances on credit behavior. It's crucial to consider these factors when analyzing credit trends and making informed predictions about future consumer financial behaviors.

How Credit Card Usage Differs by Generation - Experian (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Fr. Dewey Fisher

Last Updated:

Views: 6186

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (62 voted)

Reviews: 85% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Fr. Dewey Fisher

Birthday: 1993-03-26

Address: 917 Hyun Views, Rogahnmouth, KY 91013-8827

Phone: +5938540192553

Job: Administration Developer

Hobby: Embroidery, Horseback riding, Juggling, Urban exploration, Skiing, Cycling, Handball

Introduction: My name is Fr. Dewey Fisher, I am a powerful, open, faithful, combative, spotless, faithful, fair person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.