U.S. Credit Card Debt Reaches $1 Trillion in 2016

February 17, 2017         By: Mike Dautner

Credit card numbers from 2016 are in and Nilson Report has highlighted some staggering statistics that may surprise. Credit card receivables, otherwise known as outstanding debt, generated by U.S. issued cards reached $1 trillion by years end.

The Nilson Report has garnered a reputation as the leading card and mobile payment trade publication. This outstanding debt was tied directly to major card issuers such as Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover cards in addition to private-label cards issued for use only at a handful of retail, gas, medical, airline, and car-rental locations.

“Every credit card purchase of goods or services immediately triggers outstanding debt,” said David Robertson, Publisher of The Nilson Report. “Every purchase is technically a loan. However, it is important to remember that more than one-third of all outstanding credit card debt at the end of each month will be paid in full before the buyer incurs any finance charges.”

Accounting for the entire $1 trillion in credit card debt at the end of 2016, 86 percent was created by Visa, American Express, Mastercard, and Discover cards. This also pertains to receivables tied to commercial card products that are provided by corporations to their employees. The remaining 14 percent was distributed among various privatized credit card providers.

“In comparison, at year-end 2016 student loan debt totaled $1.407 trillion (Federal Reserve Consumer Credit – G.19),” Robertson said. “Of the $1 trillion in card debt identified by The Nilson Report, only $650 billion was subject to finance charges, while the full $1.407 trillion in student loan debt was subject to finance charges.”