How Americans 65 & Older Utilize Their Credit Cards: Balances, Credit Limits & Monthly Payments

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With age comes … financial acumen and responsible credit card usage?

Our latest LendingTree study finds that U.S. adults 65 and older with an active credit card generally have lower balances and a lower rate of maxed-out cards than consumers overall. That’s based on an analysis of hundreds of thousands of anonymized credit reports of LendingTree users in the first quarter (January through March) of 2024.

We also calculated average credit card balances among the 65-and-older set in each state, as well as average minimum monthly credit card payments as a percentage of average monthly Social Security benefits. Here’s what we found.

  • U.S. adults 65 and older have an average credit card balance of $7,484 — 10.9% lower than the average balance among all consumers of $8,400. Though older adults’ average credit card balances are lower, they have a far higher average credit limit ($57,166) than among all consumers ($43,874). As a result, older adults’ average utilization rate is significantly lower — 20.5% versus 34.6%.
  • While 23.2% of consumers have at least one maxed-out credit card, this is true for only 15.0% of U.S. adults 65 and older. On average, older Americans have 7.2 active credit cards with a 99.8% on-time payment rate.
  • Older Alaskans have the highest average credit card balance at $9,323. Only two other states’ 65-and-older adults have average balances of at least $9,000 — Maryland ($9,081) and Texas ($9,079). The states with the lowest average credit card balances among older Americans are South Dakota ($4,638), Iowa ($5,015) and Minnesota ($5,263).
  • Based on an average minimum monthly credit card payment of $237 among U.S. adults 65 and older and an average monthly Social Security benefit of $1,907 as of January 2024, credit card payments account for 12.4% of monthly benefits. Older Alaskan adults put the highest percentage of Social Security benefits toward minimum payments (16.9%), followed by Texas and Mississippi at 16.1% and 15.5%, respectively. Conversely, 65-and-older adults in Minnesota (9.0%) and New Hampshire (9.7%) put the lowest percentage of benefits toward credit card payments. Another two states’ older adults are at 9.8%.

Older Americans tend to rack up less credit card debt. Analyzing data from the first quarter of 2024, we find the average balance among those 65 and older with at least one active credit card is 10.9% lower than that among all consumers — $7,484 versus $8,400, respectively.

That’s even though those 65 and older have a far higher average credit card limit ($57,166) than all consumers ($43,874), and they’ve had their cards longer than the average population (see the table below).

Why is there more frugal credit card usage among older Americans? LendingTree chief credit analyst Matt Schulz says there are a few reasons for this.

“If you’re 65 and older, you’re likely no longer at your earnings peak, and you may even be on a fixed income,” he says. “That forces you to be more cautious with your spending, especially as it relates to debt. It helps that, at that age, their kids have likely moved out and have their own lives, so the parent’s expenses aren’t as high as when the kids were in the house or college.”

Credit card breakdown No. 1: Older adults vs. all consumers

Consumers 65 and older All consumers
Average credit card balance $7,484 $8,400
Average credit limit $57,166 $43,874
Average credit card utilization rate 20.5% 34.6%
Average age of newest credit card (months) 38.4 27.3
Average age of oldest credit card (months) 245.6 150.6

Source: LendingTree analysis of about 307,000 anonymized credit reports of LendingTree users. Note: This includes only consumers with an active credit card.

Older Americans’ average credit card utilization rate is also significantly lower than the average population — 20.5% versus 34.6%. Schulz says that makes sense when combining lower spending with the fact that they may have high credit limits remaining from their peak earning years.

“Credit is a marathon rather than a sprint, and older Americans are more likely to have good credit than younger Americans, in part because they’ve had a longer time to prove to lenders that they can handle paying back loans without incident,” he says. “When you’ve handled your business successfully for years, it can be easy to get more credit with higher credit limits, and those credit limits don’t suddenly shrink to nothing because you’ve retired.”

Who’s maxing out their credit cards? Not older Americans — or at least not as often as other consumers. While 23.2% of all consumers have at least one maxed-out credit card, “just” 15.0% of those 65 and older do.

Why? Again, Schulz says if you have high credit limits from years of well-managed credit and you’re dialing back your spending during or heading into retirement, you’re unlikely to max out your cards.

Credit card breakdown No. 2: Older adults vs. all consumers

Consumers 65 and older All consumers
At least 1 maxed-out credit card 15.0% 23.2%
Active credit card accounts (average) 7.2 6.4
Closed credit card accounts (average) 6.5 4.8
Average on-time payment rate 99.8% 99.4%

Source: LendingTree analysis of about 307,000 anonymized credit reports of LendingTree users. Note: This includes only consumers with an active credit card.

It’s not because they have fewer credit cards, though. Consumers 65 and older have more credit card accounts (an average of 7.2 active and 6.5 closed) than all consumers (6.4 active and 4.8 closed).

The difference in the on-time payment rate is minimal, however — 99.8% for those 65 and older, versus 99.4% for all consumers.

Older Americans in certain states tend to take on more credit card debt than others. Alaska ($9,323), Maryland ($9,081) and Texas ($9,079) top the list — the only three states where the average credit card balances of those 65 and older top $9,000. That compares with the average across the board for adults 65 and older of $7,484.

At the bottom of the list? Older adults in South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota have the lowest average credit card balances — $4,638, $5,015 and $5,263, respectively.

The following chart shows where the rest of the states fall in line:

States with the highest/lowest average credit card balances among older adults

Rank State Average credit card balance % above or below U.S. average % of population 65 and older
N/A U.S. $7,484 N/A 16.5%
1 Alaska $9,323 24.6% 12.8%
2 Maryland $9,081 21.3% 16.0%
3 Texas $9,079 21.3% 12.9%
4 Connecticut $8,401 12.2% 17.4%
5 Florida $8,269 10.5% 20.9%
6 New York $8,200 9.6% 17.0%
7 California $8,186 9.4% 14.9%
8 Wyoming $8,076 7.9% 17.5%
9 Maine $8,075 7.9% 21.5%
10 Hawaii $7,908 5.7% 19.3%
11 New Jersey $7,857 5.0% 16.6%
12 Arizona $7,768 3.8% 18.1%
13 Virginia $7,742 3.4% 16.0%
14 New Mexico $7,673 2.5% 18.1%
15 Mississippi $7,617 1.8% 16.5%
16 Alabama $7,550 0.9% 17.3%
17 Utah $7,434 -0.7% 11.4%
18 Georgia $7,286 -2.7% 14.4%
19 South Carolina $7,282 -2.7% 18.2%
20 Nevada $7,202 -3.8% 16.2%
21 North Carolina $7,183 -4.0% 16.7%
22 Kansas $7,127 -4.8% 16.3%
23 Illinois $7,061 -5.7% 16.2%
24 Colorado $6,936 -7.3% 14.8%
25 Louisiana $6,916 -7.6% 16.0%
26 Delaware $6,841 -8.6% 19.6%
27 Tennessee $6,762 -9.7% 16.7%
28 Rhode Island $6,653 -11.1% 17.9%
29 Pennsylvania $6,560 -12.4% 18.7%
30 Massachusetts $6,525 -12.8% 17.1%
31 Washington $6,419 -14.2% 16.0%
32 New Hampshire $6,407 -14.4% 19.0%
33 Oklahoma $6,397 -14.5% 15.9%
34 Missouri $6,316 -15.6% 17.3%
35 Idaho $6,313 -15.7% 16.3%
36 Kentucky $6,295 -15.9% 16.8%
37 West Virginia $6,240 -16.6% 20.4%
38 Arkansas $6,215 -17.0% 17.2%
39 Michigan $6,179 -17.4% 17.8%
40 Montana $6,065 -19.0% 19.4%
41 Ohio $5,826 -22.2% 17.6%
42 Wisconsin $5,754 -23.1% 17.7%
43 Nebraska $5,690 -24.0% 16.2%
44 North Dakota $5,609 -25.1% 15.9%
45 Oregon $5,584 -25.4% 18.3%
46 Indiana $5,560 -25.7% 16.2%
47 Minnesota $5,263 -29.7% 16.5%
48 Iowa $5,015 -33.0% 17.6%
49 South Dakota $4,638 -38.0% 17.3%

Source: LendingTree analysis of about 46,000 anonymized credit reports of LendingTree users ages 65 and older. Notes: This includes only consumers with an active credit card. Vermont was excluded due to its sample size. Researchers analyzed U.S. Census Bureau 2022 American Community Survey with five-year estimates data to calculate the percentage of Americans 65 and older.

Why the regional differences? It’s tough to say. However, Schulz says residents of the states with the highest average credit card balances tend to have lower credit scores, while the reverse is also true.

For example, residents in Alaska, Maryland and Texas had average credit scores of 722, 716 and 695, respectively, according to 2023 Experian data. That compares with 734, 730 and 742 in South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota, respectively.

“Some of the credit struggles older adults have faced throughout their lives don’t go away because they get older,” he says. “In some cases, those problems might become more acute. Meanwhile, those who’ve been able to more successfully manage their credit, for any number of reasons, may be more likely to continue to do so as they get older.”

We also examined average minimum monthly credit card payments as a percentage of overall Social Security benefits (based on our first-quarter 2024 credit card data and the average benefit from January 2024). With an average minimum monthly credit card payment of $237 among U.S. adults 65 and older and an average monthly Social Security benefit of $1,907, credit card payments account for 12.4% of monthly benefits on average.

In some states (based on 2022 data — the latest available at that level), that percentage jumps even higher, with Alaska again topping the list. There, retired workers 65 and older put an average of 16.9% of their Social Security benefits toward minimum credit card payments. That’s followed by Texas (again taking a top-three spot), where older retired adults put 16.1% of their Social Security benefits toward credit card payments, and Mississippi, where they put 15.5% toward theirs.

States where the lowest percentage of Social Security benefits go toward minimum credit card payments are Minnesota (9.0%), New Hampshire (9.7%), South Dakota (9.8%) and Oregon (9.8%). And, yes, that’s Minnesota and South Dakota both landing in bottom-three spots again.

Minimum credit card payment as a percentage of average Social Security benefits, 65 and older

Rank State Average minimum monthly credit card payment Average Social Security benefits for retired workers % of Social Security benefits
1 Alaska $297.76 $1,758.52 16.9%
2 Texas $287.64 $1,789.11 16.1%
3 Mississippi $262.05 $1,688.52 15.5%
4 Maine $255.51 $1,734.24 14.7%
5 Maryland $284.73 $1,960.40 14.5%
6 California $252.82 $1,787.44 14.1%
6 New Mexico $242.84 $1,723.77 14.1%
6 Florida $255.38 $1,814.35 14.1%
9 Nevada $242.90 $1,770.36 13.7%
10 Wyoming $252.76 $1,868.84 13.5%
11 New York $251.75 $1,873.83 13.4%
12 Georgia $237.62 $1,783.25 13.3%
13 Louisiana $223.82 $1,690.27 13.2%
14 South Carolina $237.69 $1,845.99 12.9%
14 North Carolina $235.25 $1,828.46 12.9%
16 Arizona $239.53 $1,867.46 12.8%
16 Arkansas $219.49 $1,718.97 12.8%
18 Illinois $234.88 $1,854.84 12.7%
19 Connecticut $251.02 $2,020.41 12.4%
19 Missouri $222.33 $1,792.15 12.4%
19 Kentucky $214.51 $1,730.48 12.4%
19 Alabama $220.59 $1,781.47 12.4%
19 Hawaii $225.81 $1,824.23 12.4%
24 Tennessee $223.16 $1,810.60 12.3%
25 New Jersey $246.64 $2,020.14 12.2%
25 Virginia $230.85 $1,896.15 12.2%
27 West Virginia $212.09 $1,769.54 12.0%
28 Utah $225.99 $1,900.65 11.9%
28 Rhode Island $223.24 $1,884.40 11.9%
30 Idaho $211.70 $1,800.19 11.8%
31 Oklahoma $207.80 $1,781.60 11.7%
32 Kansas $220.35 $1,897.60 11.6%
33 Pennsylvania $217.07 $1,894.52 11.5%
34 Colorado $210.33 $1,869.46 11.3%
35 Delaware $223.18 $1,998.21 11.2%
36 Montana $192.86 $1,739.22 11.1%
36 Ohio $197.48 $1,783.35 11.1%
38 Michigan $210.08 $1,917.84 11.0%
39 North Dakota $186.44 $1,774.50 10.5%
40 Massachusetts $198.35 $1,910.33 10.4%
41 Wisconsin $193.06 $1,875.27 10.3%
41 Washington $198.14 $1,933.04 10.3%
43 Indiana $192.27 $1,886.71 10.2%
44 Iowa $181.73 $1,839.03 9.9%
44 Nebraska $182.33 $1,850.33 9.9%
46 Oregon $180.57 $1,834.40 9.8%
46 South Dakota $172.28 $1,766.67 9.8%
48 New Hampshire $194.23 $1,994.48 9.7%
49 Minnesota $173.04 $1,924.20 9.0%

Source: LendingTree analysis of about 46,000 anonymized credit reports of LendingTree users ages 65 and older. Notes: This includes only consumers with an active credit card. Vermont was excluded due to its sample size. Researchers analyzed the “OASDI Beneficiaries by State and County, 2022” report released in December 2023 to calculate average Social Security benefits for retired workers.

Again, why the regional disparity? A higher average minimum monthly credit card payment likely means more credit card debt. And the credit card debt trends of the 65-plus set tend to follow those among the general population, according to a recent LendingTree analysis of credit card debt.

For example, the top three states in both rankings of 65-and-older consumers are among the 20 states with the highest average credit card debt regardless of age, except for Mississippi. (Mississippi, which has the lowest average Social Security benefits for retired workers, makes sense as an exception.)

Of note, though, a higher income doesn’t necessarily mean less credit card debt. For example, Maryland (which took top-five spots in both of our 65-plus rankings) has a median household income 31.0% above the U.S. median ($98,461 versus $75,149).

Just because you get to 65 with good credit doesn’t mean you should abandon good habits. Here are four ways to keep your good credit on track … or build it back up if it can use a boost:

  • Pay on time, every time: The basics of good credit don’t change whether you’re 18 or 80. Schulz says it’s all about paying your bills on time every single time, keeping balances as low as possible and not applying for too much credit too often.
  • Use it or lose it: If you don’t use a credit card, it may be closed. That closure can damage your credit because it can increase your utilization rate. One way to avoid that is to take a recurring monthly subscription, such as a streaming service bill, and set it up to automatically pay through a credit card you don’t utilize. Then, you can set up autopay to make sure you pay off that card every month. That activity keeps the card active, and the predictability of the automatic payments means you’re unlikely to pay late.
  • Consider your credit utilization rate: If you don’t use a card and it has an annual fee, it’s OK to close it. Your credit may take a hit, but it shouldn’t be so big that it would be worth paying an annual fee on a card you don’t use. “The impact on your utilization rate is the biggest deal, and you can minimize that by calling another of your card issuers and asking them to raise the credit limit on that card,” says Schulz, the author of “Ask Questions, Save Money, Make More: How to Take Control of Your Financial Life.” “Even if you don’t get it raised by the same amount as the limit of the card you closed, it can still help.”
  • Relax: Don’t stress too much about your credit if you’re not going to use it. “If you’re 65 and older and you’re not planning to borrow anytime soon, your credit probably doesn’t matter that much to you,” he says. “Now, of course, that doesn’t mean you should let it get damaged. It just means that among all the other things in life that you could worry about, your credit should be fairly far down that list.”

LendingTree researchers analyzed about 307,000 anonymized credit reports from LendingTree users with an active credit card between Jan. 1 and March 31, 2024. Of these, about 46,000 were adults 65 and older. Vermont was excluded from our research due to sample size.

Analysts used the “OASDI Beneficiaries by State and County, 2022” report released in December 2023 to calculate average Social Security benefits for retired workers 65 and older. Researchers divided the total amount of benefits paid in each state by the number of retired beneficiaries in that state.

Analysts used the U.S. Census Bureau 2022 American Community Survey with five-year estimates to calculate the percentage of Americans 65 and older nationally and by state.

Source

This article originally appeared on LendingTree and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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This article originally appeared on LendingTree and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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