Older Americans Running Up Large Credit Card Debt

January 16, 2013, Written By John H. Oldshue
Senior couple at home with many bills

A troubling survey shows that older Americans are now carrying more credit card debt than younger people, mainly due to job loss and medical bills, not because of a lack of financial responsibility.

The study looked at 997 middle-income households that were carrying credit card debt for at least three months. Of the respondents, households age 50 and older had an average credit card balance of $8,278 compared to an average debt of $6,258 for households under age 50.

The Demos’ 2012 National Survey on Credit Card Debt of Low- and Middle-Income Households was done on behalf of AARP. The survey also found:

  • Half of the older households were carrying medical expenses, such as prescription drugs and dental expenses, on their credit card accounts.
  • 34 percent of the older households were using their credit cards to pay for basic living expenses such as groceries, utilities and housing costs.
  • Job loss was a factor in running up credit card debt in nearly 25 percent of the older households.
  • But the older households have a much bigger heart than the younger households: 23 percent have taken on credit card debt to help other family members versus 11 percent of the younger households.

The information contained within this article was accurate as of January 16, 2013. For up-to-date
information on any of the terms, cards or offers mentioned above, visit the issuer's website.