Wednesday, January 16, 2019

44% of Americans Are "Revolvers"

How many Americans carry a credit card balance, and how much do they owe? The answers can be found in a study by economist Joanna Stavins of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. She wanted to determine the unique characteristics of credit card users and in particular those who are "revolvers" — meaning they owe a balance on their credit cards.

Stavins examined findings from the Survey of Consumer Payment Choice, comparing revolvers' self-reports of their credit card balances with the Equifax credit bureau records of individual respondents. One of her goals was to determine the accuracy of self-reported balances, and she discovered they aren't all that accurate. Self-reported credit card balances are significantly lower than the balances reported by Equifax. Overall, 44 percent of adults in 2015–16 were revolvers (carrying a credit card balance). The average balance on the credit cards of revolvers was $6,597—25 percent greater than what respondents self-reported. Here are the percentages of Americans who are credit card revolvers by age, and their average credit card balance based on Equifax records...

Credit card revolvers by age, 2015–16 (and Equifax credit card balance)
Total adults: 44% ($6,597)
Under age 25: 26% ($2,913)
Aged 25 to 34: 44% ($4,472)
Aged 35 to 44: 49% ($7,192)
Aged 45 to 54: 51% ($8,336)
Aged 55 to 64: 48% ($7,493)
Aged 65-plus: 35% ($6,261)

Actual credit card balances are higher than self-reported balances in every age group. The biggest difference is among people aged 65 or older, who report an average balance of $3,795 while Equifax data show an average balance of $6,261.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Credit Card Debt and Consumer Payment Choice: What Can We Learn from Credit Bureau Data?

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