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This article was last updated Jan 22, 2020. Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.
When the 2010s began, the credit card business was reeling from the impact of the global economic crisis and the massive regulatory changes that soon followed.
Ten years later, consumers are eager to spend on their credit cards, banks are falling all over themselves to find more people to lend to and the industry has never been in better shape.
Just how different are things in 2020 than they were in 2010? Enormously. We ran the numbers to show you.
- Credit card account ownership
- Credit card debt
- Credit scores
- Credit card interest rates
- Credit card limits
- Credit card delinquencies
Credit card account ownership
- There are 103 million more open credit card accounts now than in 2010. That’s a 26.7% increase. (New York Federal Reserve consumer credit panel/Equifax)
- The number of monthly credit card originations increased by 60% over the last decade, from 3.7 million in 2010 to 5.9 million in 2019. (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau consumer credit panel)
Credit card debt
- The nation’s total outstanding revolving debt is $1.086 trillion as of November 2019. In January 2010, it was $909.7 billion. That’s an increase of $177 billion, or about 19%. (Federal Reserve’s monthly G.19 consumer credit report)
- The average credit card balance increased by $865 to $6,194 from $5,329. (Experian)
- In 2010, credit cards represented 6.27% of all consumer debt, which stayed relatively steady at 6.3% in 2019. (New York Federal Reserve consumer credit panel/Equifax)
- The average credit score in the U.S. hit an all-time high of 703 (out of a possible 850) in 2019. That’s up from 689 in 2010. (Experian)
Credit card interest rates
- The average interest rate for all credit cards grew from 14.26% in 2010 to 14.87 in 2019. In between, however, it fluctuated a great deal – falling as low as 11.82% in 2014 and rising as high as 15.13% in 2019 – driven largely by rate changes by the Federal Reserve. (Federal Reserve’s monthly G.19 consumer credit report)
- The average interest rate on credit card accounts that were assessed interest increased by 2.2 points, to 16.88% in 2019 from 14.67% in 2010. (Federal Reserve’s monthly G.19 consumer credit report)
Credit card credit limits
- The volume of monthly credit card originations more than doubled over the past decade, from $16.3 billion to $34.7 billion. (CFPB consumer credit panel)
- Consumers’ total credit limit jumped from $2.76 trillion in 2010 to $3.8 trillion in 2019. (Federal Reserve Household Debt & Credit Report)
- Consumers’ total available credit was $2 trillion in 2010 and rose to $2.92 trillion in 2019. (Federal Reserve Household Debt & Credit Report)
- New credit cards opened by subprime borrowers in April 2019 had $521 million more in credit limits than those opened in January 2010. That’s more than double. (CFPB consumer credit panel
Credit card delinquencies
- Credit card delinquency rates as a percentage of outstanding balance dropped by half in the last 10 years, at just 5.16% in 2019 from 10.8% in 2010. (New York Federal Reserve consumer credit panel/Equifax)
- Credit card delinquency rates as a percentage of all accounts fell from 3.88% in the first quarter of 2010 to 2.96% in the third quarter of 2019. (American Bankers Association Consumer Credit Delinquency Survey)
The bottom line: A remarkable decade for the credit card business
After a rocky and tumultuous start, the 2010s became the golden era of credit cards. By the middle of the decade, buoyed by a strong economy and an unprecedented credit card rewards arms race, consumers whipped out their plastic – or their metal card or mobile wallet – more than ever before, and issuers were more than happy to oblige.
As a new decade emerges, the credit card business is clearly healthy, as are consumers. As debt rises, delinquencies have begun to tick a bit higher, but are still at historic lows. Issuers have begun to tighten their lending standards somewhat in anticipation of an eventual economic slowdown, but it is still easy for most consumers to get a credit card. We may never see another offer that creates the stir that the Chase Sapphire Reserve® did, but the sheer volume and diversity of rewards offered today means that it is still the best time in history to shop for credit card rewards.
What does it all mean for consumers? It means that if you haven’t yet taken advantage of the credit card rewards boom or the proliferation of introductory 0% balance transfer credit cards, there’s still time. However, it is also important to understand that good times don’t last forever, so you’d also be well-served to focus on knocking down any credit card debt to make sure you have enough money stashed away for those not-so-good times. If you don’t, you could end up making those bad times even worse.
Note: LendingTree consumer research specialist Brianna Wright also contributed to this report.