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Credit Card Confidence Index: 12 Months in Review

Credit Card Confidence Index: 12 Months in Review

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This article was last updated Oct 28, 2020. Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.

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Credit Card Confidence Index: A Look at Prior Months

September 2020: Credit Card Confidence Spikes To Record High In September

Americans’ confidence in their ability to pay their credit card bills jumped to a 25-month high in September, according to CompareCards’ Credit Card Confidence Index. 

Nearly three-quarters of cardholders said they were confident they could pay their credit cards’ monthly statement balances in full this month. That’s a significant increase from August, which was the first month in 2020 in which confidence had decreased.  

Whether that confidence continues to grow could depend on the results of November’s presidential election, which most Americans said will make them feel more confident in their ability to pay their credit card bills depending on who wins.

Key findings 

    • 73% of cardholders said they were confident in paying their credit cards’ monthly statement balance in full this month. That’s a 7-percentage-point jump from August, and the highest total in the 25-month history of the index.
    • Both men and women showed improved confidence in September, though men were still far more likely to say so.
    • Just 16% of cardholders said they were not confident. That’s the lowest value in the index’s history.
    • Just about  2 in 3 credit cardholders said they expect the results of the 2020 presidential campaign, depending on who wins, will make them feel more confident in their ability to pay their credit card bills.

Confidence keeps climbing

Despite all the economic adversity the nation has faced in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, growth in consumer confidence in handling their credit card debt has largely been unstoppable in 2020. We’ve seen confidence fall just once – in August – since November 2019. 

During that time, it’s grown from 58% of Americans saying they were confident they could pay their credit cards’ monthly statement balance in full in November 2019 to 73% saying so in September 2020. 

Men and women have both reported increased confidence, though men remain far more assured than women overall. For example, 81% of men said they were confident in September, compared with 63% of women. In November 2019, those numbers were 67% and 50%, respectively.

That optimism isn’t just about this month, though. More than half of cardholders (54%) said they expect to pay their card statement balance in full in at least five of the next six months, the highest percentage we’ve seen. Just 17% said they expect to pay in full just one time or fewer in the next six months, the lowest total in the index’s history.

Why consumers are trending positive (and some others aren’t)

When we asked cardholders who expect to pay in full in at least five of the next six months why they felt that way, the most common reason was a simple one: They rarely carry a balance. Fifty percent of confident respondents said that. 

Beyond not carrying a balance, three other reasons stood out:

  • They have plenty of emergency savings: 28%
  • They only charge when they have enough money to cover expenses: 26%
  • They have no major expenses coming: 25%

On the flip side, most cardholders who expect to pay in full three or fewer times in the next six months (53%) said simply, their card balance was just too large to pay off. 

The second-most common response could be seen as reason for optimism, though. Nearly 1 in 4 respondents (23%) said they weren’t confident in paying their bills in full because they were trying to build savings while paying down debt. 

A less hopeful sign: Thirteen percent said they weren’t confident because they’d lost their job and the end of the extra $600 per week unemployment benefits really hurt.

Elections matter

With the election just weeks away, CompareCards also asked cardholders to gauge whether they felt the election would affect their confidence in paying their credit card bills. The answer was yes, but it depends on who wins. 

Overall, about 2 in 3 cardholders said the election will make them feel more confident about their credit card bills. However, 32.7% said that would happen if President Trump won and 32.5% said it would happen if former Vice President Joe Biden won. 

Breaking down the data further:

    • 1 in 6 Republicans backed Biden: While 63% of Republicans said a Trump win would make them feel more confident, a surprising 17% of Republicans said the same about Biden. Meanwhile, just 6% of Democrats said a Trump win would make them feel more confident.
    • Gender gap, as always: Men and women were about equally likely to say a Biden win would make them feel more confident. But men were about twice as likely to say a Trump win would make them feel more confident.
    • Independents narrowly lean toward Biden: Twenty-seven percent of Independents said they’d be more confident if Biden won versus 21% who said the same about Trump. However, the sample size of Independents was fairly small, making that 6-percentage gap roughly equal to the expected margin for error.

Note: Out of 1,466 respondents who answered the question about political affiliation, 646 were Republican, 538 were Democrats, 247 were Independents and 35 were other.

The bottom line

The Confidence Index has regularly defied expectations all year, so betting against continued growth in cardholder confidence may be a fool’s errand. However, the truth is that it seems unrealistic to expect that consumer good feelings can go much higher than they already have.

I believe cardholder confidence is likely as high – or very close to that – as it will go in the near future. Yes, a percentage point or two of growth may still happen, but I think a leveling-off or a decrease is likely to come. Combine uncertainty about future government stimulus, ongoing high unemployment, the coming of the holiday shopping season and the climax of a contentious presidential election – and you have the recipe for more economic volatility. 

But more than that, having nearly three-quarters of all cardholders feeling confident about their ability to pay their card bills in full this month is extraordinary. It is something to celebrate. However, it is not something that we should expect to continue for much longer.

September 2019 Methodology

CompareCards commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,527 credit cardholders, with the sample base proportioned to represent the overall population. The survey was fielded Sept. 4-11, 2020.

August 2020: Credit Card Confidence Dips For The First Time Since November

Americans’ confidence in their ability to pay their credit card bills this month fell for the first time since November 2019, according to CompareCards’ monthly Credit Card Confidence Index.

CompareCards surveys credit cardholders in the U.S. each month to find out how confident they are that they can pay their credit cards’ monthly statement balance in full this month and why. (We ask cardholders to rate themselves on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being not at all confident and 5 being very confident.) They are also asked how often they’ve paid their statement balances in full in the previous six months and how often they expect to do so in the upcoming six months.

Despite the pandemic and all the economic woes that have come along with it, credit card confidence has continued to grow throughout 2020 — until now.

Key findings 

  • 66% of cardholders said they were confident in paying their card statement balances in full this month, down 3 percentage points from July for the first drop since November 2019
  • 23% said they were not confident, up 6 percentage points from July. It’s the highest percentage since April.
  • Men were far more likely than women to say they’re “very confident” in paying their statement balance this month (58% of men vs. 46% of women). Women, on the other hand, were twice as likely to say they were “not at all confident.”

Cardholder confidence finally slips

After eight straight months of either growing or staying unchanged, cardholder confidence dipped in August. Still, two out of every three credit cardholders said they feel confident that they can pay their credit cards’ entire monthly statement balance in full this month. That’s especially noteworthy, given the current economic turmoil.

So why the dip now? The end of the extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits that have kept consumers afloat for the past several months almost certainly played a role. The president signed an executive order authorizing $300 per week in extra federal benefits going forward, but there’s no clear timeline for when most jobless Americans will begin receiving that extra money.

There could also be a seasonal component to this. Even though many kids across the country will attend school remotely rather than in person, August is still back-to-school-shopping season. This year they might be buying desk chairs rather than backpacks, but the expenses are still significant.

Last August, for example, confidence fell to 59%, which was the third lowest total of 2019. (September 2019 saw the lowest numbers in the two-year history of the Index at 53%.)

Signs of future trouble?

The decline in card confidence wasn’t just about this month.

More than 1 in 4 cardholders (27%) said they expect to pay their statement balances in full one time or less in the next six months. That’s up 4 percentage points from July, and it’s the highest percentage since November 2019.

As we’ve seen in previous months, women were about twice as likely as men (26% to 12%) to say they would pay their statement balances in full zero times in the next six months.

The future outlook isn’t all bad, however.

The percentage of cardholders saying they’d pay their monthly statement balances in full in at least five of the next six months is 47%, the highest seen since January.

The bottom line

The uncertainty surrounding unemployment benefits mean that all bets are off when it comes to predicting cardholder confidence in the next few months. I think it is likely to dip a bit in the coming months. However, I think the fact that Americans have been able to stash away some savings in the past few months and are still not able to freely do so many of the things that have led them to run up their card balances (travel, frequent dining out, concert and ballgame tickets) means that the average cardholder’s financial margin for error might be a little bigger right now than it normally is.

That bodes well for confidence going forward in the short term. However, even during these strange, isolated times, life is still expensive. It almost certainly won’t take long for the reduction of unemployment benefits to take a big toll.

August 2020 Methodology

CompareCards commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 845 credit cardholders, with the sample base proportioned to represent the overall population. The survey was fielded Aug. 13-17, 2020.

July 2020: Credit Card Confidence Hits Another Two-Year-High Despite COVID-19 Pandemic

Consumers’ confidence in their ability to pay their credit card’s monthly statement balance in full this month hit another nearly two-year high in July, according to CompareCards’ Credit Card Confidence Index, with women driving most of the growth.

Every month, CompareCards asks credit cardholders in the U.S. how confident they are that they can pay their credit cards’ monthly statement balance in full this month and why. They’re asked to rate themselves on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being very confident and 1 being not at all confident. We also ask cardholders how often they’ve paid their statement balances in full in the past six months and how often they expect to do so in the next six months. We then release those numbers each month as the CompareCards’ Credit Card Confidence Index.

Confidence has been high – and relatively stable – for most of the 11 months in which we’ve put out the Index. However, this month’s Index was different. It showed a significant drop in confidence for the first time in those 11 months. The lingering question is whether this is the start of something new or just a one-month anomaly.

Key findings 

  • 69% of cardholders said they were confident in July, the highest percentage since the index was created in September 2018 (46% rated their confidence level as a 5 out of 5, while 23% rated it as a 4 out of 5).
  • The total percentage of confident cardholders has not decreased since November 2019.
  • Women were more likely than men to say they were very confident (48% of women versus 45% of men), a first in the history of the Confidence Index.
  • Women are also nearly twice as likely as men to say they are “not at all confident” (17% of women said so, compared to just 9% of men). However, that 17% number is the lowest for women since April 2019.

Overall confidence keeps climbing

Despite one of the worst economic crises our nation has ever seen, American credit cardholders’ confidence just keeps climbing. The total percentage of those who said they were confident in being able to pay their statement balance this month (meaning they rated their confidence either a 4 or 5 out of 5) is 69%, the highest seen in the nearly two-year history of the Index. 

This isn’t just a one-month spike either. Consider this:

  • The percentage of cardholders who said they are confident in paying their statement balance in full has not decreased since November of 2019. 
  • Meanwhile, the percentage of cardholders who said they are not confident (rating their confidence as a 1 or 2 out of 5) has increased just once during that same period. 

Also, 35% of cardholders expect to pay their statement balances in full in each of the next six months. That’s the second-highest percentage since January. 

Among cardholders who weren’t confident in their ability to pay their statement balance in full this month, the most common reason given was the COVID-19 crisis. Half of unconfident cardholders blamed the coronavirus pandemic, while 31% blamed a loss of income. Women (34%) were more likely than men (27%) to blame the lack of confidence on a loss of income, but women (50%) were equally likely as men (51%) to blame the pandemic.

Women lead the way

Since the Confidence Index was created in September 2018, we’ve consistently seen a significant gap in the way women and men view their ability to pay their card statement balances in full. 

That gap is still alive and well. For example, women are still twice as likely as men to say they’re “not at all confident” in paying their statement balances in full this month. (“Not at all confident” means you rated your confidence level as a 1 out of 5, while “very confident” means your level was 5 out of 5.) 

However, recent months have shown that the overall gap might be narrowing, and July’s report showed something unprecedented in the Index’s history: More women than men said they were very confident in their ability to pay their credit cards’ monthly statement balances.

That’s a major change. In the previous 22 months of the Index, the percentage of very confident men was on average 9 points higher than that of very confident women. In June, that gap was even higher at 11 percentage points. In fact, only once in the previous 22 months had the gap been less than 5 percentage points (a 4-point gap in May 2020). 

Major increases in the number of very confident women have made this possible. In January 2020, just 34% of women said they were very confident (compared to a record high of 59% for men). Today, 48% of women said they’re very confident versus just 45% of men. That growth has been slow and steady for women – there hasn’t been a decrease since January – whereas men’s confidence levels have been more volatile, ranging from 41% to 59%.

The bottom line

One of the biggest financial questions facing American cardholders in the coming weeks and months is whether the extra $600 per week provided in unemployment benefits will continue past the end of July. The answer to that question will go a long way in determining credit cardholders’ confidence for the rest of 2020. 

If the expanded benefits continue, then we will likely see cardholder confidence remain high. The truth is that many Americans are bringing home more income while unemployed than they did with their regular job. (That’s likely especially true for women, who typically earn less than men and who have been disproportionately likely to have suffered a job loss during the pandemic.) 

Because of that, people have been able to pay their household bills while also likely knocking down debt and perhaps even stashing away some extra money in savings. That’s not what happens normally during unemployment, but these are far from normal times. 

If the extra benefits stop or are curbed significantly, all bets are off. It suddenly becomes far harder for millions of jobless Americans to make ends meet. That likely means far more reliance on credit cards, which could lead to greater debt, more missed payments and big trouble for many Americans. 

The renewal of the extra unemployment benefits is obviously not the only big question remaining, but it is a huge one. The best thing people can do to prepare themselves for whatever happens is to keep building their emergency fund. We’ve seen a huge spike in the savings rate in America, so people’s financial margin for error might be a little bigger today than it was a few months ago.

The truth, however, is that your savings can never be too big. Even if you feel good about how much cash you have in your rainy-day fund, consider adding a bit more if you can because, unfortunately, we have no idea just when this current storm will come to an end.    

July 2020 methodology

CompareCards commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,003 credit cardholders, with the sample base proportioned to represent the overall population. The survey was fielded July 10-13, 2020. 

June 2020: Credit Card Confidence Index: Americans’ Credit Card Confidence Reaches New Heights Despite Pandemic

Cardholders’ confidence in their ability to pay their credit card bills is the highest it has been in nearly two years.  

Every month, CompareCards asks credit cardholders how confident they are in their ability to pay their credit cards’ monthly statement balance in full this month and why. They’re asked to rate themselves on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being very confident and 1 being not at all confident. We also ask cardholders how often they’ve paid their statement balances in full in the past six months and how often they expect to do so in the next six months. We then release those numbers each month as the CompareCards’ Credit Card Confidence Index. 

Key findings 

  • 50% of cardholders said they are “very confident” in their ability to pay their credit cards’ monthly statement balance in full this month. That’s up 3 percentage points from May and is the highest number seen since tracking began in September 2018.
  • Just 15% said they were “not at all confident.” That’s unchanged from last month and equals the lowest percentage since May 2019.
  • The bump in confidence was driven by men. The percentage of men saying they were very confident jumped 7 percentage points (from 49% to 56%) this month, while the percentage of women saying the same was unchanged since last month at 45%.
  • 33% of cardholders said they paid their cards’ monthly statement balance in full in each of the past six months, unchanged from May. Meanwhile, 18% said they had paid their bills in full in none of the past six months, up from 16% in May.
  • 35% of cardholders said they expect to pay their card’s monthly statement balance in full in each of the next six months, up from 34% in May. On the other hand, 16% said they expect to pay in full in none of the next six months. That’s up 2 percentage points from May.
  • Among those who aren’t confident in paying their bills in full this month, 37% blamed the COVID-19 crisis. In May, that percentage was 52% and in April, it was at 70%. 

Recession hasn’t curbed cardholder confidence

America is now officially in a recession. Unemployment has fallen significantly from its recent pandemic-driven peak, but it is still at 13.3%.  Most businesses are still only partly open, if they’re even open at all. And there’s no guarantee that a COVID-19 vaccine will be available anytime soon. Despite all the bad news, cardholders feel better about their ability to pay their credit card bills than they have in months.

June is the first month in which 50% or more of cardholders said they were “very confident” in being able to pay their cards’ statement balance in full this month since we began the Confidence Index in September 2018. The previous high was 48%, reached multiple times, most recently in April. 

When you add in those who rated their confidence levels as a 4 out of 5, the percentages for this month jump to 67%, the highest seen since April 2019. Compare that to the 19% who rated their confidence as a 1 or 2, and it’s clear that people are feeling good about their finances in June.

It’s not just this month that cardholders feel confident about, however. More than a third of cardholders (35%) said they expect to pay their monthly statement balance in full in each of the next six months. That’s on par with the average numbers seen since we began tracking this question in March 2019.

Card issuers are seeing the boost in confidence, too. Earlier this month, Discover reportedly announced that the amounts of credit card payments being deferred dropped 90% from April to June.

Why so confident?

What’s driving these good feelings? Expanded unemployment benefits have undoubtedly played a big role, as has the fact that many businesses have remained closed, meaning that people simply haven’t had as many places to go spend. Also, while unemployment is still at historically high levels, many employers actually added jobs in the last month, allowing some to go back to work perhaps a bit more quickly than they might have feared a month or two ago.

Among those who weren’t confident in paying their bills, 26% said a loss of income led to them feeling that way in June. In May, that number was 29% and in April, it was 34%.

The biggest reason for not feeling confident? The coronavirus pandemic. However, while 70% of non-confident cardholders blamed the pandemic in April for how they felt, just 37% did the same in June.  

The bottom line

It’s great that credit cardholders are feeling good about their finances right now, but there’s reason to be skeptical that it will last. 

The extra unemployment benefits that have helped so many people may end at the end of July. It’s most likely that the extra $600 has greatly eased the burden on many who have lost their jobs, allowing many to actually pay down debts while they look for work instead of just making ends meet. If that goes away, we’d likely see credit card delinquencies grow and confidence dip.

Also, as more businesses open across the country, credit card spending will inevitably grow. It’s far easier to pay your credit card bill when you use it less than normal. That’s been the case for many Americans over the last couple of months, but as economic conditions move closer to normal, people’s credit card spending likely will return as well.

In addition, many who have deferred loan payments in recent months may have big bills come due soon. Yes, the deferrals and forbearances are a welcome reprieve in a very difficult financial time, but they also come at a price. Many Americans will be forced to bring those loans current by making a lump-sum payment, and that might be a tall order for those who are still without a job – especially if unemployment benefits are reduced. (It is worth noting, however, that lump-sum repayments are typically not a feature of credit card issuers’ hardship programs. They can be for mortgages and other types of loans, but not usually for credit cards.)

June 2020 Methodology

CompareCards commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 778 credit cardholders, with the sample base proportioned to represent the overall population. The survey was fielded June 2-3, 2020.

May 2020: Americans’ credit card confidence remains high despite COVID-19 crisis

Despite record-breaking unemployment claims and economic uncertainty in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Americans remain confident in their ability to pay their credit card bills. That optimism may come as a surprise given the financial chaos of the last few months, but there is reason to believe that it may even stick around for a little while longer. 

Key findings 

  • Just 15% of credit cardholders said they’re not at all confident in paying their full monthly statement balance on their credit cards this month. That’s the lowest percentage since May 2019 and is a 5 percentage-point drop from last month. (By contrast, 47% said they’re very confident this month.)
  • About 16% said they did not pay their monthly statement balances even one time in the past six months. That’s down 5 percentage points from April and is the lowest percentage since May 2019. (On the other hand, 33% said they paid in full in each of the past six months.)
  • Just 14% say they expect to pay their balances in full in zero of the next six months. That’s down 6 percentage points from April and is the lowest since May 2019. (Conversely, 34% said they expect to pay in full in each of the next six months.)
  • A gender confidence cap remains. Women are more than twice as likely to say they’re not at all confident in paying this month’s balances in full. Some 21% of women said so, compared to just 8% of men.


Why is confidence still high?

With more than 30 million Americans applying for unemployment insurance since mid-March, it may come as a surprise that confidence remains high among credit cardholders. After all, people without jobs – or people who are afraid they’re going to lose their jobs soon – don’t typically feel very good about their prospects for paying their bills. 

The coronavirus pandemic, however, is a bit of a different animal. 

Yes, unemployment is a big problem. Among those who weren’t confident, 52% blamed COVID-19, 29% blamed a loss of income, 10% blamed a lost job and 11% blamed a partner or spouse’s lost job. Those types of events predictably have an economic impact, and there can be little doubt that many Americans are being forced to rely on credit cards more today than they did a month ago simply to make ends meet.

So what makes this economic crisis different? Two things… 

First, many jobless Americans are receiving an extra $600 per week as per the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in addition to the typical unemployment benefits. That extra money is a big deal for many households struggling with joblessness and may even provide some families with a little bit of cushion to not just make ends meet, but even to pay down a small bit of debt. 

Second, people don’t have as many options to spend on as they typically do. They aren’t going to restaurants. They aren’t going to sporting events, concerts and plays. They aren’t doing big home renovations. And they likely aren’t booking airfares and hotel rooms. That means that most people’s credit card balances are a lot lower than normal. That allows folks whose financial lives haven’t been flipped upside down by the pandemic to knock down that debt and maybe even put a little money away. And for those who have been hit hard by the pandemic, it means there’s less pressure to go out and spend money that you might not have.

Among those who said they felt confident in paying their balances, more than 1 in 3 (37%) said they felt that way because they don’t expect to spend much money in the near future. 

Major gender gap is evident

Since we began the Confidence Index in September of 2018, a divide between men and women has usually been apparent. This month is certainly no different.

  • Among those who were confident, men were more than twice as likely to say it was because they felt stable in their job (42% of men versus 19% of women).
  • Women are twice as likely than men to say they never paid in full (21% versus 10%) in the past six months, but are also more likely to say they paid every time (36% versus 29%).
  • Women are also twice as likely than men to say they expect to never pay in full (18% versus 9%) in the next six months, but are also more likely to say they expect to pay in full every time (38% versus 31%).

Recent unemployment numbers show that women have been hit disproportionately harder than men by the pandemic. Add that to the fact that women typically have a smaller financial margin for error than men for any number of reasons and it seems likely that women will continue to feel less confident than men in their ability to pay their credit card bills.

The bottom line

As long as Americans’ spending options remain limited, confidence levels will likely remain high, even as the unemployment rate continues to climb.  

The larger question, however, is what happens once more of the country opens for business and people begin to break out their credit cards again. At this point, we have no idea when that may happen, but when it does, I think we’re likely to see confidence levels fall.

In the meantime, people who are still financially stable should continue to focus on paying down their credit card debt while also putting some money away in a rainy-day fund. It may seem strange to put money in a low-earning savings account instead of devoting it all toward paying down high-interest credit card debt, but it’s a good idea. That’s because having an emergency fund can help you break the cycle of debt once your credit cards are paid off. 

Think of it this way: Say you pay your credit card debt off and then the next day, you find out your car needs a $300 repair. If you have no savings, that repair is just going to throw you right back into credit card debt, but if you do have some savings, you can use it to pay for the repair, letting your credit cards remain balance-free. 

May 2020 Methodology

CompareCards commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 897 credit cardholders, with the sample base proportioned to represent the overall population. The survey was fielded May 5-8, 2020.

April 2020: Americans Divided on Credit Card Confidence in Wake of Coronavirus

American credit cardholders are split on the impact the coronavirus is having on their ability to pay their credit card bills this month, according to a new report from CompareCards. Much of that divide is about gender.

Each month, CompareCards asks cardholders how confident they feel in their ability to pay their credit card’s monthly statement balance in full this month. For those who aren’t confident, we ask why. We also ask all respondents how often they’ve paid their statement balances in full the past six months and how often they expect to do so in the next six months. Those results make up the Credit Card Confidence Index, which we have released monthly since September 2018.

Not surprisingly, the percentage of cardholders saying they feel “not at all confident” in their ability to pay their credit card’s monthly statement balance in full this month shot higher in April. However, the percentage of those saying they’re “very confident” climbed, too, hitting its highest levels in a year.

So what gives? A deeper look in the numbers shows some stark differences between genders and age groups are helping drive this split. 

Key findings

  • 48% of cardholders said they are “very confident” in their ability to pay their monthly credit card statement balance in full this month. That’s up 2 percentage points from March and is the highest number in a year.
  • At the same time, 20% of cardholders said they are “not at all” confident. That’s up 4 percentage points from March and is the second-highest number in our index since February 2019.
  • Among those who were not confident to pay, 70% said the coronavirus was a reason why, up from just 16% in March. 
  • It’s clear that this crisis is hitting genders differently. The growth in “very confident” cardholders is entirely driven by men, while women dominated the higher number of “not at all” confident cardholders.
  • Baby boomers are nearly twice as likely as any other age group to say they were “not at all” confident in paying their card bills in full this month.

A study in contrasts

The coronavirus outbreak has had a seismic impact on the American economy. The fact that nearly 17 million Americans filed for unemployment in just a three-week period is incontrovertible proof of that. Given that, it shouldn’t be surprising that the percentage of cardholders saying they’re “not at all” confident in paying their card balances in full spiked this month. Millions of Americans are nervous about when and if that next paycheck will come and how they’ll make ends meet until then. 

Seven in 10 cardholders (70%) who weren’t confident said the coronavirus was a factor, a nearly five-fold jump from last month. About 1 in 3 unconfident cardholders (34%) pointed to a loss of income. (Note: Respondents were able to select multiple answers.) 

What may be surprising is the simultaneous jump in those who say they’re “very confident” in paying their balances in full. As the nation reels from the pandemic, nearly half of all cardholders (48%) said they were “very confident” they could pay their card balances in full this month. That’s the biggest number since April 2019.

We didn’t ask specifically what made them confident, but some possible reasons include:

  • Staying home means less spending, which leads to less credit card debt. The latest numbers from the U.S. Department of Commerce showed an 8.7% decline in retail sales in March, the biggest drop since tracking began in 1992.
  • The coming stimulus check will help them pay their bills. 
  • Relief about the stock market climbing off recent lows.

There can be as many reasons for confidence as there are confident people. Whatever the basis, it is clear that the coronavirus is impacting some groups quite differently from others.

Read Credit card issuers offering relief to coronavirus-hit customers

A significant gender gap

Study after study done by CompareCards and others over the years has shown significant differences between men and women when it comes to their behaviors, perceptions and beliefs related to money. This survey is no different. 

Here are some examples:

  • Women are twice as likely to say they’re “not at all” confident: 27% of women versus 13% of men
  • Men are far more likely to say they’re “very confident:” 54% of men versus 43% of women
  • Women are twice as likely to say they never paid their statement balance in full in any of the past six months: 29% versus 14% of men.

Also, the simultaneous growth that we saw in the percentages of “very confident” and “not at all” confident cardholders can be attributed largely to gender differences. 

  • 27% of women said they were not at all confident, up 4 percentage points from March; men’s percentages were up just a single point to 13%
  • 54% of men said they were very confident, up 6 percentage points from March; women’s percentages were unchanged at 43%. 

Why the change? Men were more likely than women to blame the coronavirus (75% to 68%), while women were more likely to blame a loss of income (35% versus 32% of men). That stands to reason, as March’s job report showed that women were more likely to have been impacted.

Beyond the numbers, however, is likely the fact that women’s financial margin for error is simply smaller than men’s. They make less money, they’re more likely to lead single-parent households and the list goes on. That’s before even considering that women are likely bearing most of the burden of child care (which now includes home-schooling for many) as millions of American families shelter in place amid the outbreak. Add it all up, and it makes sense that women would be less confident and more cautious in their approach to money.

Read Can’t pay credit cards bills because of the coronavirus? Make this call

Boomers are far less confident

For the most part, the differences among the different age groups aren’t quite as stark as the one seen between the sexes. The one exception: baby boomers. 

Boomers are almost twice as likely as any other age group to say they’re “not at all” confident about paying their card’s statement balance in full this month. Thirty percent of boomers said so, compared with 16% of both Gen Xers and millennials and just 11% of Gen Z. (Among those groups, they are also tied with Gen X as the most likely to say they were “very confident,” with 49% saying so.) 

Why the concern from boomers? Our data showed 59% blamed the coronavirus and 29% blamed loss of income, both percentages coming in slightly lower than the overall average. However, while they may be less troubled by the outbreak than other age groups, our survey results indicate that boomers were struggling more than other age groups even before the crisis really took hold. 

For example, a third of boomers (33%) said they had not paid their monthly card statement balance in full a single time in the past six months. A similar percentage (31%) said they don’t expect to pay their card balance in full a single time in the next six months. Both of those figures are at least 10 percentage points higher than the average for all credit cardholders, suggesting that this isn’t merely a virus-related issue. 

The bottom line: Don’t expect this confidence split to widen

I am surprised that we saw more “very confident” people in this month’s survey, but as the virus outbreak continues to grip America and the rest of the world, I expect confidence to fall.

As the crisis wears on, unemployment is likely to grow, leaving more people wondering how they’ll pay their bills. And even once the outbreak starts to subside and people are free to move around as they wish whenever that may happen a massive economic turnaround isn’t likely to happen overnight, so millions of Americans will continue to struggle financially. 

If the stock market continues to improve, that will help people’s spirits and their net worth. Lower credit card interest rates, driven by the Federal Reserve’s rate reductions, will make a difference in the longer term, as will any stimulus checks that go out. 

Ultimately, however, financial confidence is primarily about having a good job that you feel secure in. For millions of Americans, that is no longer a reality and won’t be for some time. Until that changes, it’s hard to see cardholder confidence continuing to rise. 

April 2020 Methodology

CompareCards commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,189 credit cardholders, with the sample base proportioned to represent the overall population. The survey was fielded April 3-6, 2020.

Generations are defined as the following ages in 2020:

  • Gen Z are ages 18-23
  • Millennials are ages 24-39
  • Gen X are ages 40-54
  • Baby boomers are ages 55-74
  • Silent generation are ages 75 and older

March 2020: Credit Card Confidence Remains High But Shows Signs Of Eroding

American credit cardholders remain confident in their ability to pay their card’s bills, according to a new report from CompareCards. However, there are signs that those good feelings might have already begun to deteriorate.

Each month, CompareCards asks credit cardholders to rate on a scale of 1 to 5 how confident they are — 5 being very confident and 1 being not all — in their ability to pay their credit cards’ monthly statement balance in full this month. We also ask how often they have paid all their cards’ monthly statement balances in full in the past six months, and how often they expect to do so in the future. We then publish that data as part of the Credit Card Confidence Index.

March’s overall numbers show a consumer who remains confident — but when looked at more deeply, an unsettling picture emerges.

Key findings

  • 64% of cardholders said they were confident they would pay their credit cards’ monthly statement balance in full this month, compared to just 22% who said they were not. That’s the biggest split between those two numbers since May 2019.
  • Stock market volatility may have hurt confidence. Those polled prior to March 10 — the day after the biggest one-day point drop in the history of the Dow Jones Industrial Average — were far more likely than those polled after that date to say they felt confident in their ability to pay their credit card bills.
  • The most common reason for not feeling confident? Prioritizing other expenses or other debts.
  • 1 in 7 cardholders who said they didn’t feel confident about paying their card bills in full this month cited the coronavirus outbreak as a reason.

Confidence shows signs of waning

Nearly half of American cardholders (46%) said they were “very confident” in their ability to pay their credit card monthly balance in full this month, while another 18% rated their confidence level as a 4 out of a possible 5. Add those up and nearly two-thirds of cardholders (64%) said they feel confident about their credit card bills. That’s the highest percentage since May 2019.

Just 22% of cardholders said they weren’t confident, rating their confidence as a 1 or 2 out of 5. That’s unchanged from February, which matched the lowest number since August.

But cardholder confidence seemed to deteriorate as polling continued.

  • Those who took the survey prior to Tuesday, March 10: 
    • 49% said their confidence level in paying this month’s statement in full was 5 out of possible 5; just 13% said it was 1 out of 5.
    • Overall, 71% rated their confidence level as a 4 or 5, while just 16% said it was a 1 or a 2.
  • Those who took the survey either on March 10 or after
    • 44% said their confidence level in paying this month’s statement in full was 5 out of possible 5; 19% said it was 1 out of 5.
    • Overall, just 59% rated their confidence level as a 4 or 5, while 28% said it was a 1 or a 2.

That’s a lot of movement. The percentage who rated their confidence as a 4 or 5 fell 12 percentage points. At the same time, the percentage saying their confidence level was a 1 or 2 jumped 12 percentage points. (Note: 454 people responded prior to March 10, while 544 people responded after.)

Reasons for drop in confidence

On March 9, the Dow Jones Industrial Average suffered its biggest one-day point loss in history, falling 2,013 points. The next day, March 10, the Dow spiked back up, rising 1,164 points. But on March 11 — the day before our polling ended — the Dow plunged again. It fell 1,464 points, leaving the market average more than 20% lower than its most recent high.

While we didn’t specifically ask about the stock market in our questions as to why cardholders were not feeling confident about paying their credit card bills, it’s not hard to imagine that the volatility seen in the stock market might have had a significant impact on how people feel about their own financial situation.

Much of the stock market plunge has been attributed to concerns about the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak that continues to grip the United States and much of the world. With that outbreak in mind, we asked respondents who rated their confidence as a 1, 2 or 3 whether the virus outbreak impacted that confidence level. Of those cardholders we asked, 16% said it did. 

More than half of cardholders who said they weren’t confident (57%) said it was because they had other expenses to prioritize, while 33% said they had other debts they were trying to pay off first. (Respondents could offer more than one reason if they chose to.)

The bottom line: Unprecedented circumstances make for unpredictable times 

As the world continues to battle the coronavirus outbreak, there is an enormous amount of uncertainty in virtually all facets of life. Economy and personal finance are no exception.

Barring a faster-than-expected resolution to this crisis, I’d expect cardholder confidence to suffer in next month or two. The truth is that the average American’s financial margin for error is small, and many people will have their finances disrupted in a very real way — because of a medical emergency, loss of income and other possible reasons — before this situation is resolved.

Just how hard people will be hit financially is the trillion-dollar question, and right now, there’s no way to know. 

March 2020 Methodology

CompareCards commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 998 cardholders, with the sample base proportioned to represent the overall population. The survey was fielded March 9-12, 2020.

February 2020: Credit Card Confidence Dips for First Time Since November

Consumers’ confidence in paying their credit card bills fell for the first time since November, according to a new report from CompareCards by LendingTree.

February’s Credit Card Confidence Index showed that about 4 in 10 cardholders (41%) said they felt very confident in their ability to pay their monthly credit card statement balances in full this month, rating their confidence level as a 5 out of 5. This is a 5-percentage point drop from January.

However, cardholders’ confidence is hardly shattered. The percentage of cardholders rating their confidence level as a 4 out of 5 hit an 18-month high of 22%, up from 16% a month ago. That indicates that while cardholders aren’t feeling quite as confident as they have in recent months, they’re still generally feeling pretty good about paying their credit card bills.

For each month’s Credit Card Confidence Index, CompareCards asks cardholders how confident they feel in their ability to pay their credit cards’ monthly statement balances in full this month. They’re asked to rate their confidence on a scale of 1 to 5: 1 being “not at all” confident and 5 being “very” confident. We also ask how many times they have paid their monthly statement balances in full in the past six months and how often they expect to do it in the next six.

Key findings 

  • 41% of cardholders said they were “very confident” in their ability to pay their credit cards’ monthly statement balance in full this month, a 5-percentage point drop from the previous month and the lowest since November. Just 18% of cardholders said they were “not at all” confident to pay in full this month.
  • Just 26% of cardholders said they paid their cards in full each of the past six months, also a 5-percentage point drop from January and the lowest number since November. However, the percentage saying they paid in five of the past six months reached its 18-month high at 14%.
  • The primary reasons for not paying in full this month were that the cardholder had other expenses to prioritize and that the balance was just too high. 

Cardholder confidence dips but generally remains strong

After back-to-back months of confidence growth, cardholders took a step back in February. However, a deeper look at the numbers reveals a more positive outlook. 

Nearly 2 in 3 cardholders (63%) rated their confidence level at a 4 or 5 out of 5 when it comes to paying their credit card bills in full this month. That’s up a single percentage point from December and January and is the highest total since May 2019. It’s a 5-percentage-point increase from February 2019.

That growth is significant, especially considering that the holiday shopping season recently concluded. It’s a good indication that consumers feel that they pulled through the season relatively unscathed – or at least are in a manageable position – when it comes to credit card debt.

When it comes to cardholders’ recent payment history, the numbers look shakier. The survey reveals that 40% of cardholders said they paid their monthly statement balances in full in at least five of the past six months. (That includes the 26% who said they paid in all six months.) That 40% number is unchanged from January and is well above record lows, but it is also 7 percentage points below February 2019 and 11 percentage points below record highs set in June.

The good news is that the percentage of cardholders who never paid their balances in full in the past six months has remained stable since last summer, typically staying within a percentage point or two of the current 20% number. That indicates that while fewer people are paying their bills in full every month, most of those who carry a balance are doing so only sporadically rather than every single month.

The bottom line: Watch for signs of weakening confidence

When it comes to paying credit card bills, consistency matters. Paying your bills in full every single month keeps you from paying interest, makes sky-high APRs irrelevant and helps improve your credit. However, the truth is that life is expensive in 2020 and for many cardholders, paying in full simply isn’t a practical expectation.

In the coming months, it will be important to watch to see if more cardholders say they’re paying in full less often. And it’s not just observing those who never pay in full. A jump in the number of cardholders saying they paid in full in just three or four of the past six months, for example, could be a sign of bigger financial trouble on the horizon.

February 2020 Methodology

CompareCards commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,047 cardholders, with the sample base proportioned to represent the overall population. The survey was fielded Feb. 7-13, 2020.

January 2020: Consumer Credit Card Confidence Jumps As New Year Begins

Americans emerged from the holiday season feeling more confident about their credit card bills than any time since June, according to a new report from CompareCards.com. 

Every month, we survey American credit cardholders to gauge how they’re feeling about their ability to pay off their credit card bills. We ask three things: How confident they are that they can pay their credit cards’ monthly statement balance in full this month, how often they have paid them in full in the past six months and how often they expect to pay them in full in the next six months. The results make up the CompareCards Credit Card Confidence Index. 

While confidence deteriorated through most of 2019, the tide began to turn as the year drew to a close. Now, our latest report shows that growing confidence has continued into the new year, though not all of the news is positive.

Key findings

  • 46% of cardholders said they feel “very confident” about their ability to pay their credit cards’ monthly statement balance in full this month. That’s the highest total since June (47%), though slightly below the 48% seen in January 2019.
  • Just 16% said they feel “not at all confident,” the lowest total since May (15%) and 2 percentage points lower than January 2019. 
  • Less cardholders said they paid their cards’ monthly statement balance in full in each of the past 6 months (31%). That’s down from 33% in December and well down from 39% in January 2019. (Twenty-one percent said they never paid in full a single time in the past six months, up 2 percentage points from December, but still in line with numbers seen recently.)
  • Men are twice as likely as women to say they are “not at all confident” in paying their card bills in full. Just 10% of men said so, compared with 20% of women. However, both of those percentages decreased in January (down from 14% and 25% respectively). 

Feeling good after the holidays

It is no secret that the holiday season is stressful for any number of reasons, which includes money. There’s so much pressure to overspend on presents, parties, travel and more during that time of year that it can be overwhelming. That’s why it shouldn’t be too surprising to see a small drop in the number of folks who paid their card statement balance in full every time in the past six months, which is exactly what we saw. Just 31% of cards paid in full in each of those six months, down slightly from December. The main reason given for not paying in full is simply that there were other expenses to prioritize (29% of respondents said so.) Just 10% blamed holiday spending. 

With that holiday spending in the rearview mirror, cardholders’ credit card confidence went up, with 46% of cardholders saying they’re very confident in their ability to pay their card bills in full this month, compared with 44% in December. That’s the same month-to-month increase that we saw from December to January last year (from 46% to 48%). 

The bottom line: Confidence remains high, but it won’t stay that way forever.

I believe that by the end of the year, Americans’ credit card confidence will be lower than it is today, driven in part by anxiety over what is likely to be a volatile election. However, that nervousness may not appear for a few months. 

In January 2019, 48% of cardholders were “very confident” in being able to pay their credit card bills in full that month. Through June, that number was largely unchanged, falling below 47% just once (46% in February). Things changed dramatically after that, however. From July through the end of the year, that number ranged from 38% to 44%, not reaching the latter number until December. 

As 2019 was the first full year of the confidence index, it wouldn’t be wise to draw too many conclusions from those movements or to assume that 2020 will look similar. However, it is easy to see how Americans might feel a bit more queasy about their finances in the second half of the year than the first. The summer brings vacations, then the fall brings back-to-school spending and before people know it, the next holiday shopping season arrives.

Read Best balance transfer credit cards

Given all that, I would expect confidence levels to remain high for the next few months. With the holidays behind them, many people will focus on getting their financial house in order, which can help people feel better about their bills. However, the mountain of debt that Americans have isn’t going away, so any short-term good feelings cardholders have might eventually fall victim to the reality of tight budgets and small financial margins for error. 

December 2019: Consumer Credit Card Confidence Jumps But Remains Lower Than A Year Ago

This month, consumer confidence in their ability to pay off their credit card bills shot to its highest level since June, according to a new report from CompareCards by Lending Tree. But consumer confidence remains lower than it was one year ago.

Each month, CompareCards asks cardholders how confident they are that they can pay their credit cards’ monthly statement balance in full this month, as well as how often they’ve paid their statement balances in full in the previous six months and how often they expect to do so in the coming six months. The results make up CompareCards’ Credit Card Confidence Index. 

This month’s numbers show that while consumer credit card confidence has rebounded somewhat after months of decline throughout 2019, it is still lagging behind what we saw in late 2018. 

Key findings: 

  • Consumer credit card confidence jumped in December to its highest level since June but remains lower than last December. 
  • Why don’t people think they’ll pay their bills off in full? They have other expenses to prioritize or, simply, the balance is just too high.
  • The survey shows 33% of cardholders said they paid their statement balance in full in each of the past six months – up from 26% a month ago, but still down from 37% in December 2018 – while 19% said they never did so.

Confidence improving but still below last year’s numbers

This year has not been a great one for consumers’ credit card confidence. In December 2018, 46% of cardholders said they felt “very confident” in their ability to pay their credit cards’ monthly statement balance in full that month. In January, that number climbed to another record high of 48%. By September, however, that number had fallen to a new low of just 38%.

The good news is that the final month of 2019 saw a rebound: 44% of cardholders are “very confident” in their ability to pay this month’s credit card statement balance in full this month, up from 40% in November. That improvement still hasn’t brought consumers fully back to levels seen in late 2018 and early 2019, but it provides some reason to believe that that may change soon. 

We also saw a major month-to-month increase in the number of cardholders who said they paid their bills in full in all of the past six months. Of surveyed cardholders, 33% said so in December, up from 26% in November. That 26% number may be a statistical anomaly. It’s well below the 33% seen in October and 4 percentage points below the record low of 30% seen in August and September.) Meanwhile, just 19% of cardholders said they never paid their bills in full a single time in the past six months, the lowest total since June.

Women’s credit card confidence on the upswing

One reason to think confidence numbers might improve: Women appear to be feeling better about their situation. While men’s confidence remained largely flat in the second half of the year, women’s numbers ended the year on a high note. More than 4 in 10 women (41%) say they’re very confident in their ability to pay that card statement balance in full this month. That’s up from 34% just a month ago and marks the first time that number has topped 40% since June, when it stood at 44%. Ultimately, it is still down a tick from the 42% we saw in December 2018, but is headed in a positive direction. 

Another positive sign for women is that they were slightly more likely than men to have paid their card balance in full in all six months (34% of women said yes, compared to 33% of men). That’s just the second time in 16 months that has happened. 

Not all of the signs are rosy, though. Women are still far more likely to say they never paid their card balances in full in the past six months (24% of women compared to just 15% of men).

The bottom line: Expect confidence to dip in 2020, but don’t rule out increases in the short term 

After seeing consumer credit card confidence fall by 10 percentage points between January and September, the last several months’ numbers have followed a different pattern: up 4 points in October, down 2 points in November, up 4 points again in December. Judging by that data, it’d be easy to predict a 2-point drop in credit card confidence next month. A decline would also make sense as consumers wrestle with the aftermath of the holiday season. (Note: 13% of those who weren’t confident in paying their statement balances in full this month blamed it on holiday spending, while nearly twice that many blamed it on “other expenses.” In other words, life.) That’s part of the reason why introductory 0% APR balance transfer cards tend to become popular at the first of the year. People are making New Year’s resolutions and looking for ways to knock down their debt. 

Still, though I firmly believe that we’ll continue to see at least a slight decline in confidence throughout 2020, it wouldn’t surprise me to see confidence tick up a bit in January. December’s increase seems to indicate that consumers have gotten this far through the holiday season without breaking the bank, so it’s possible that they’ll emerge on Jan. 1 still feeling good about their finances and with their credit card confidence intact. That would make for a positive start to a year that – if only because of the upcoming election – promises to be volatile. 

I don’t expect that positivity to last long-term, though. There’s so much debt out there, and I believe it is starting to take a toll. It may not be causing widespread delinquencies, but that doesn’t mean that people aren’t still struggling as their debt grows. In fact, I’d bet that part of the reason people are feeling confident in December is that they’ve dialed back their spending a bit this holiday season. Time will tell. 

Your best move is to make 2020 the year you focus on knocking down your credit card debt for good. It won’t be easy and likely won’t be quick, but once you see that $0 balance, that feeling you get will make all the struggles worth it.

December 2019 Methodology

CompareCards by LendingTree commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,163 Americans with a credit card, with the sample base proportioned to represent the general population. The survey was fielded Dec. 13-16, 2019.

November 2019: Cardholders Less Confident About Paying Card Bills This Holiday Season Than Last

Americans are feeling less confident about paying their credit card bills in full this holiday season than they did during the last one, according to a new report from CompareCards by LendingTree.

The latest CompareCards Credit Card Confidence Index shows that only 40% of cardholders feel “very confident” about paying their credit card’s monthly statement balance in full this month. That’s down from the 46% that said so in November 2018, showing that Americans are a little more jittery about handling their holiday expenses than they were a year ago.

Every month, CompareCards asks cardholders to gauge how confident they are in their ability to pay their monthly credit card statement in full that month. We also ask how often in the past six months cardholders have paid their bills in full and how often they expect to do so in the next six months. In addition, we ask those who don’t expect to pay in full why they feel that way. Add it all up and you get the Credit Card Confidence Index. 

Key findings:

    • 40% of cardholders feel “very confident” about paying their credit card’s monthly statement balance in full this month. That’s down slightly from the 42% that said so in October, but well below the 46% that said so in November 2018.
    • Just 26% said they paid their card statement balance in full in all of the past six months, the lowest number seen in the past 15 months and 10 percentage points lower than November 2018.
    • 34% of women said they feel “very confident” about paying their statement balance in full this month, compared to 46% of men. That percentage of women is the lowest in the past 15 months. 
    • The most common reason people don’t think they’ll pay their card balance in full this month? Other expenses are taking priority. 

A less confident holiday season

Last month’s confidence index showed a small uptick in cardholder confidence for the first time since April. It didn’t last. 

The percentage of cardholders feeling “very confident” about paying their bills this month dropped a bit from last month. (The percentage who said they felt “not at all confident” remained flat at 19%.) However, when comparing the numbers to the previous year, a bigger change is evident. Cardholders are 6 percentage points less likely to say they’re very confident than they were a year ago. That doesn’t bode well for the holiday season.

Women continue to be less confident than men, with the percentage of women saying they’re very confident in being able to pay their credit card bill (34%) falling to the lowest point in the survey’s 15-month history. However, men’s confidence has fallen as well. This month, 46% of men said they were “very confident,” well down from 54% last November.

Fewer paying in full every month  

Just 26% of cardholders said they paid their statement balance in full in each of the past six months. That’s a 7 percentage point drop from last month and the lowest number ever seen in the survey. It’s such a large drop that I want to wait to see what next month’s numbers look like before I make any major judgments. It is an eye-opener, however. 

Interestingly, the number of cardholders saying they never once paid in full in the past six months actually decreased from 22% to 21%. However, we saw more and more respondents land in the middle: 14% said they paid in full in four of the six months, and 11% in three of the months, for example. Both of those are at or near the highest levels seen in the survey’s 15-month history. It wouldn’t surprise me to see more cardholders in that middle ground in coming months.

What’s keeping people from paying their card statement balance in full? The most common response that other expenses were taking priority. It’s likely that holiday shopping is one of those expenses for many people. However, for some, it might simply be the high cost of life in 2019.

The bottom line: Be cautious this holiday season

Numbers released by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York showed that while American are still piling up debt of all kinds, there hasn’t been much growth in delinquencies or bankruptcies, indicating that consumers are doing a good job of handling their business. 

That’s not the full story, though. The truth is that just because you’re not delinquent that doesn’t mean that you’re doing well, and I believe this month’s Confidence Index is further proof that many, many American cardholders are in this squishy middle when it comes to paying their bills. They’re paying on time, but their debts just keep growing. They feel fairly confident, but they definitely don’t feel as good as they used to.

A recent Commerce Department report said retail sales rose in October, but purchases of big-ticket items decreased. This seems to be a perfect example of Americans’ waning confidence. A truly confident consumer wouldn’t feel any need to hold back on making that big purchase, but the Commerce Department data seems to indicate that Americans are doing just that, which could mean fewer high-dollar items under the tree this Christmas.

As debt continues to grow and break records, none of this should be surprising. Eventually, something has to give. At some point, there will simply be too much debt for Americans to handle without a big spike in delinquencies and bankruptcies and such. We’re not there yet, and we may not get there until some outside force – a recession, a natural disaster, political upheaval — changes things. But it’s important to understand that good economic times don’t last forever, so it would be wise to focus on knocking down your credit card debt and building your emergency fund as much as you can while the economy remains strong. 

It may not be easy, and it may not be fast, but there are things you can do to make a difference. Call your card issuer to lower your APR. (It works!) Get yourself an introductory 0% APR balance transfer card. Find yourself a savings account that earns more than your current one. These things may not change your life, but they do make a difference, and when that economic downturn does eventually comes and you’re on more stable financial footing, you’ll be glad you did them.

November 2019 Methodology

CompareCards by LendingTree commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 791 Americans with a credit card, with the sample base proportioned to represent the general population. The survey was fielded Nov. 1-4, 2019.

October 2019: Cardholder Confidence Grows For First Time Since April

Consumers felt more confident in their ability to pay their credit card bills in full in October, according to a new report from CompareCards.com. It’s the first monthly increase since April.

Each month, CompareCards surveys American credit cardholders to gauge how they feel about their ability to handle their credit card bills. The survey asks cardholders how confident they are about paying their credit cards’ statement balance in full this month, how frequently they’ve paid their statement balance in full in the previous six months and how many times they expect to do so in the next six months. The results make up the Credit Card Confidence Index.

Recent months had seen an unmistakable decrease in confidence among cardholders, but October’s data bucked that trend. Confidence grew, though it remained below average levels seen in the past year. The question is whether this month is the beginning of a new, more positive trend or just a blip.

Key findings:

  • Cardholders’ confidence increased for the first time since April. 42% of cardholders said they were very confident in their ability to pay their credit card monthly statement in full this month. It’s the highest number since June. The percentage saying they felt “not at all” confident shrunk to 19%, down from 23% last month.
  • 33% of cardholders said they paid their card statement balances in full in each of the past six months, the highest number since June, though still below the average for the past year. 22% of cardholders said they had never paid their statement balance in full in the past six months, down 1 percentage point from last month.
  • Confidence grew for both men and women, though a decided gender gap in confidence remains. Just 11% of men said they were “not at all” confident in their ability to pay their card statement balances in full this month, compared to 28% of women. (Last month, those numbers were 15% and 31%, respectively.)
  • 37% of men said they paid their card statement balance in full in each of the past months, a 6point jump from September. Just 28% of women said so, a 1 -point dip from the previous month.

The bottom line: Don’t expect this to last long.

Yes, cardholder confidence grew, reversing the trend seen in recent months. However, with monthly statistics like the Credit Card Confidence Index, things rarely move in a straight line. Numbers may rise or fall a bit on a month-to-month basis, but what’s most instructive is to look at the longer-term trends. That’s certainly the case with this month’s index.

Even if we see confidence continue to grow in the next month or two, there’s still plenty of reason to believe that longer term trends will continue to dip toward the negative. Most experts believe we’re in the 8th or 9th inning of this economic expansion and believe that an economic slowdown is coming in the next year or two. And many strong economic data points have nowhere to go but down. Mix in a volatile stock market and what promises to be a turbulent election, and most signs seem to point to consumer confidence dipping slightly in coming months.

If you’re feeling apprehensive, the best thing you can do is knock down that credit card debt and build up your rainy-day fund. Your credit card debt likely means that you haven’t been able to put enough money away to protect you in the case of a job loss, medical emergency or some other unpleasant surprise. Now’s the time to change that. To attack that credit card debt, consider getting an introductory 0% APR balance transfer credit card or asking your card issuer for a lower interest rate on one of your current cards. You have more power to change things than you realize. You just have to be willing to take that first step.

October 2019 Methodology

CompareCards by LendingTree commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 760 Americans, with the sample base proportioned to represent the general population. The survey was fielded Oct. 1-3, 2019.


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