Smart Borrower Blog

A Quarter of Americans Have Carried Credit Card Debt for 5+Years

Oct 4th, 2017 @ 7:59 PM by Amber Nelson

Many Americans have trouble paying off their credit card bill each month, and according to a new survey by almost one out of four have been having that trouble for five years or more.

The survey, conducted by phone with 2,005 adults, found that 43 percent have carried a credit card balance for more than two years and 23 percent have had credit card debt for at least five years.
The demographics of those carrying credit card balances for years was a bit surprising. Having a higher income or more education did not correlate with paying off balances. In fact, of those with high school degrees or less, about 20 percent had credit card debt from month-to-month while about 33 percent of those with college degrees kept monthly balances. Similarly, only 24 percent of those making $50,000 or less each year carried credit card debt but 38 percent of those with incomes higher than $50,000 did.

The reason for that debt varied greatly with those of lower incomes citing keeping up with day-to-day expenses as the top reason they have credit card debt. Those in the higher income brackets names vacations and home repairs.

Generationally, the middle aged (36 percent of Generation Xers and 33 percent of younger baby boomers) were the most likely to be carrying credit card balances. Only 26 percent of millennials kept a monthly balance, as did 24 percent of older baby boomers and 19 percent of the Silent Generation (those older than 71.)

Carrying credit card debt is a “slippery slope,” said Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst at He warns, “What may seem inconsequential at first can quickly grow into overwhelming debt.” The best plan is to make a plan for your credit card funds and pay them off every month.


About Amber Nelson
Amber Nelson is a seasoned mortgage industry writer and a regular contributor to and

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