MoneyGeek Analysis:

New Year, More Debt: American Families Pack on 14% More Credit Card Debt Heading Into 2024

ByDeb Gordon

Updated: December 28, 2023

ByDeb Gordon

Updated: December 28, 2023

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After a brief slow in debt accumulation during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, household debt is once again on the rise. Amid record inflation, overall American household debt increased by $351 billion — or 2.2% — in the third quarter of 2022 alone, according to the Federal Reserve.

MoneyGeek analyzed the most recent data from the New York Federal Reserve’s Household Credit and Debt Report and the Survey of Consumer Finances to explore the main types of debt consumers hold and how that mix changed from Q3 2021 to Q3 2022.

Key Findings:
  • The average household debt increased by over $12,000, up 8%. As of Q3 2022, the average U.S. household had more than $167,000 of debt.
  • Debt for individuals increased by $3,478, averaging more than $58,000 per person. That’s 6% more than the previous year.
  • American households entered the new year with more credit card debt than the previous year, with a 14% increase in debt.
  • Aside from mortgages, credit card debt and auto loans were the biggest drivers of household debt; the average household took on $1,939 more in credit card debt and $1,415 more in auto loans.

The Average American Accumulated An Additional $3,000 of Debt

The average American holds $58,194 in personal debt. Much of this debt is tied up in mortgages, and — given that housing is becoming less affordable across the country — this likely comes as no surprise. With mortgage debt excluded, the average debt per person in America in 2022 was $17,051.

Student and car loans make up the bulk of non-mortgage personal debt; the average American has more than $5,000 of debt in each category. But average credit card debt is inching up: the average debt accrued via credit cards increased by an average of $373 from Q3 2021 to Q3 2022.

From Q3 2021 to Q3 2022, credit card debt increased by nearly 13% overall, mortgages by more than 7% and car loans by nearly 4%. Meanwhile, student loan debt fell by 2.5%, and home equity revolving credit dropped by 0.3%.

Average Debt Balance per Capita by Type of Debt
Type of Debt
Q3-22
Q3-21
% Change

Mortgage

$41,143

$38,329

7.3%

Student Loan

$5,550

$5,689

-2.5%

Auto Loan

$5,373

$5,183

3.7%

Credit Card

$3,261

$2,888

12.9%

Home Equity Revolving

$1,135

$1,139

-0.3%

Other

$1,731

$1,519

14.0%

Average Per Person

$58,194

$54,746

6.3%

US Households Are Entering the New Year With Over $12,000 More Debt

The average household debt reached $167,463 in 2022, up 8% from the third quarter of 2021. Credit card debt is the most common type of debt for American households, followed by mortgage debt and car loans. Nearly half (45%) of households have credit card debt, 40% have mortgage debt and 37% have car loans.

Average Household Debt Balances by Type of Debt*
Type of Debt
% Households with Debt
Q3-22
Q3-21
% Change

Mortgage

40%

$226,729

$209,345

8.3%

Student Loan

21%

$57,164

$58,079

-1.6%

Auto Loan

37%

$32,099

$30,684

4.6%

Credit Card

45%

$15,835

$13,896

14.0%

Home Equity Revolving

5%

$55,613

$55,274

0.6%

Weighted Average Per Household Debt

77%

$167,463

$155,038

8.0%

*Since not every household has each type of debt, debt balances can vary dramatically by family. For example, among the 40% of households with mortgage debt, the average household mortgage balance was $226,729. Because households with mortgages are in the minority and mortgages tend to be higher than all other types of debt, the average weighted household debt is lower than the average mortgage balance.

Household Credit Card Debt Is Nearing Pre-Pandemic Levels

It's no surprise that mortgage debt is the most significant burden for American households, increasing by 8.3% since last year. But what other types of debt are impacting American consumers?

Student loans — the subject of hot political debate and a source of financial strain for millions of Americans — and car loans have doubled since 2010. By 2021, total student loan debt reached more than $58,000 per household, and the average American household had more than $30,000 in car loans. There were over $1.5 trillion and $1.4 trillion owed on student and auto loans, respectively.

In 2022, those with student loans decreased their debt load slightly. While the total amount owed in 2022 was still over $1.5 trillion, the average student loan debt per household ticked down 1.6%, from just over $58,000 per household in Q3 2021 to just over $57,000 in Q3 2022. In contrast, car loan balances continued to climb, increasing 4.6% to just over $32,000 per household during that same period.

But the most notable increase in debt levels was in credit card debt, which saw a 14% increase from 2021 to 2022. After seeing declines in 2020 and 2021, total credit card debt sat at $925 billion in 2022 and was nearly back to pre-pandemic levels.

Methodology

To calculate the average per capita debt overall and for each debt type, MoneyGeek utilized data from the New York Federal Reserve’s Household Credit and Debt Report for Q3 2022. MoneyGeek calculated per capita debt levels using data for members of the U.S. population with a credit report.

MoneyGeek utilized data from the New York Federal Reserve’s Household Credit and Debt Report for Q3 2022 and data on the total number of households in America to calculate the average debt per household. To calculate the average household debt for each type of debt, MoneyGeek used the proportion of households with that type of debt based on the 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances (the SCF) by the Federal Reserve Board and the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

About Deb Gordon


Deb Gordon headshot

Deb Gordon is the co-founder and CEO of Umbra Health Advocacy, and author of The Health Care Consumer’s Manifesto (Praeger 2020), a book about shopping for health care based on consumer research she conducted as a senior fellow in the Harvard Kennedy School’s Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government between 2017 and 2019. Her research and writing have been published in JAMA Network Open, the Harvard Business Review blog, USA Today, RealClear Politics, TheHill, and Managed Care Magazine.

Deb previously held executive roles in health insurance and health care technology services. Deb is an Aspen Institute Health Innovators Fellow and an Eisenhower Fellow, for which she traveled to Australia, New Zealand and Singapore to explore the role of consumers in high-performing health systems. She was a 2011 Boston Business Journal 40-under-40 honoree, and a volunteer in MIT’s Delta V start-up accelerator, the Fierce Healthcare Innovation Awards and in various mentorship programs.


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