A Look at the Fed’s Survey of Consumer Finance

February 19, 2009, Written By Sarah Hefner

Last week, the Federal Reserve released its Survey of Consumer Finances 2007, the triennial look into the financial condition of American families, including credit card debt.

The survey shows that the average credit card balance for families who carried a balance increased, but the percentage of families who actually carried a balance declined slightly.

Experts say that while it’s good to look at the trends from 2004 to 2007, some of these statistics are obviously a bit dated considering what has happened to financial institutions and credit card loans since then.

According to the survey:

* In 2007, the median balance for those carrying a balance was $3,000, up 25% from 2004. The mean balance for those carrying a balance rose 30.4% to $7,300.

* In 2007, 73% of all families had a credit card compared to 74.9% in 2004.

* In 2007, 46.1% of all families carried a credit card balance, a slight drop from 46.2% in 2004.

* Median number of cards was two per family.

* Median interest rate rose one percentage point to 12.5%.

* Median credit limit rose 21.4% to $18,000.

Since this survey, credit limits have been cut for many cardholders. In the latest Quarterly Loan Officer Report, 60% of banks say that they have tightened lending policies for credit cards over the past three months, experts say.

* Of families with credit cards, 96.1% have a bank-type card, 56.7% have store cards, and 11.9% have gasoline cards.

* Credit card debt was 3.5% of total debt. This is up from 3.0% in 2004 (primary residence is 74.7 percent of total debt).

The Survey of Consumer Finances is a triennial survey and one of the best snapshots of the finances of U.S. families. It interviewed 4,422 families.


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The information contained within this article was accurate as of February 19, 2009. For up-to-date
information on any of the terms, cards or offers mentioned above, visit the issuer's website.


About Sarah Hefner

Sarah Hefner has written for several publications as well as serving as an editor to various writers. She graduated from the School of Communications & Journalism at Auburn University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Relations.
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