Credit card balances, utilization, interest rates

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7.1. Median amounts charged
Table 6 shows the median card balance of households who revolve credit, by
each survey year, and differentiating between households who claim to “almost
always” or “sometimes” pay off the balance each month from those who admit that
they “hardly ever” pay off the balance.11 Households who usually revolve credit tend,
not surprisingly, to have larger balances on their credit cards than do households who
indicate only occasional credit card revolving. The median amount of credit card debt
outstanding for occasional revolvers increased from about $700 in 1983 to over
$1,150 in 1995, but has since declined slightly, to about $1,000 in 2001. The median
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balance for credit revolvers has increased by more, and in recent years has been more
than twice as large: it has grown from $1,244 in 1983 to $3,260 in 1998 and $2,800 in
2001.
Credit card balances of households that are occasional revolvers show less
variation by age, education, and income than do the balances of households who
usually revolve credit. Among households who usually carry a balance, the median
credit card balance generally has been between $2,500 and $3,000 for households
aged less than 65, but only about $1,500 for older households. Although Table 1
indicates that a smaller percentage of card-holding households with college education
revolve credit card debt, those that do revolve their card debt tend to carry larger
balances than do households with less education. The median balance for college
educated usual revolvers has increased from about $3,000 in 1992 and 1995 to $4,775
in 1998 and $4,000 in 2001. By contrast, the median balance for a credit-revolving
household with high school education generally has been between $2,000 and $2,500.
Similarly, although a smaller percentage of higher-income households usually choose
to revolve credit than do lower-income households, those that do typically carry larger
balances than do households with lower incomes.

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