2021 Debt.com Survey Highlights Pandemic-Era Consumer Credit Card Spending Habits

As the United States continues to work towards a post-pandemic economy, Debt.com has released a new survey looking at how the event has impacted the way consumers utilize their credit cards. First, 90% of those surveyed used credit cards compared to only 10% who didn’t. Of those who do, 42% expect that they’ll continue to observe the cutbacks they’ve made to their credit card spending during the pandemic. However, one-third anticipate that they’ll increase their spending once again (specifically on restaurants and retail purchases) as the nation normalizes while one-quarter aren’t yet sure how their spending habits will be affected.

Speaking of spending, Debt.com’s survey also asked respondents about their current balances across all of their credit cards. Interestingly, the top response was “$0 to $100,” which 21% of those surveyed reported. The second most popular balance range was $501 to $2,000 with 18%. Notably, each tier saw at least double-digits, with 11% of respondents carrying balances in excess of $10,000 and 10% having more than $20,000 in credit card debt.

Also notable is that the majority (57%) of respondents say they rarely or have never hit spending limits for their cards. On the other hand, 20% report maxing out a card within the past year. Additionally, 8% say they reach their limit on a monthly basis.

Of course, one trend we’ve seen pick up within the past few months is credit card issuers offering enhanced welcome bonuses and other perks. On that note, 64% of survey respondents said that lower interest rates were the top feature they looked for when exploring new credit card options. Somewhat surprising, “more cash back” was a distant runner-up with 19% followed by “best rewards” with 16%.

Lastly, the most popular number of credit cards that consumers carry is between three and five, with 35% of respondents citing that answer. Meanwhile, 24% of respondents had only one credit card to their name followed closely by 23% who had two. Only 2% of those surveyed said that they currently held more than a dozen cards.

Regarding the 2021 survey results, CPA and Debt.com Chairman Howard Dvorkin stated, “The latest credit card survey shows that Americans are finally taking their credit card spending seriously. While overall debt has ticked up a couple percentage points across the board year over year, the fact that consumers are sticking to a few cards, avoiding hitting their credit limits, and charging less frivolously, are all good signs for a post-pandemic world.” Elsewhere, the site’s president Don Silvestri chose his words carefully, but explained, “I’d never say there’s a silver lining to a pandemic, so I’ll just say I’m hopeful we’ve learned some solid financial lessons. We’ll know for sure when we conduct our credit card survey next year.”

To Silvestri’s point, we will likely need to wait and see if consumers really do continue to curb their spending by as much as they’re expecting. While some post-pandemic splurges are to be expected, there is still reason to believe that some will stay true to their plans and work to remain debt free. With any luck, economic conditions will continue to improve and help enable those financial goals to become reality.


Jonathan Dyer

I'm a small town guy living in Los Angeles looking to make solid financial decisions. I write for a number of finance websites, including HuffingtonPost and Business2Community. I founded DyerNews.com in 2015 to focus on personal finance and the emerging FinTech markets.

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