Average credit card debt. (And why you should aim for below average.)

According to the Federal Reserve, the average U.S. household credit card debt is around $7,000 ­– and as a country, we owe over $850 billion in total credit card debt. However, those statistics don’t mean that every adult in the country owes at least a few thousand to credit cards.

The stat simply considers the total amount of credit card debt owed and divides that number by the number of American residents. Some people owe much more, others owe less, and some carry no credit card debt at all.

For example, when the Federal Reserve tweaked the number to examine only households that carry debt, it found that the average soared up to $15,000 in credit card load.

Credit card nation

These statistics highlight the widespread usage of credit cards in the U.S., and with debit card acceptance, it’s become standard practice to pay with plastic instead of cash. Here are a few other numbers that highlight credit card usage:

  •  Average APR on credit cards with a balance: 13.14 percent
  • Total number of credit card accounts in the U.S.: around 400 million
  • From 2002 to 2012, America’s credit card debt balances increased by $76 billion
  • In 2010 (the most recent year for which this data is available), 55.1 percent of the families with credit cards reported having a balance on the card

Aim to be below average

Although it can be comforting to fall within an average – you might feel like you’re not alone in having several thousand in credit card debt – it may be time to consider what credit cards are doing to your personal financial health. Consider this:

  • If someone has a $5,000 balance with a 16 percent APR and makes a $125 payment each month, that person would need almost five years to pay off the balance and would pay about $2,000 in interest.

Paying off your credit cards completely, and then making sure to pay the balances each month if you keep using them, is a top goal when it comes to long-term planning. Even though the “average” American may be carrying credit card debt, that doesn’t mean you need to be complacent when it comes to wiping out those interest charges and other fees.

If you see credit cards as a tool instead of a burden, then you’re well on your way to financial wellness.

Do you have any tips for staying below the average in credit card debt? Share them in the comments.

Want more credit facts and strategies for taking control of your finances? Download Cobalt’s free Debt Management Guide.