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The average millennial has over $4,000 in credit card debt—other generations have more
Gen X and Gen Z have the highest and lowest credit card debt, respectively. Here's how to pay it off.
Consumers of all ages carry credit cards, but some generations have larger outstanding balances than others.
Members of Generation X have the highest average credit card debt at $7,155, followed by baby boomers and millennials, according to credit bureau Experian's latest consumer findings.
With an average credit card balance of $1,963, consumers in Generation Z carry the lowest credit card debt. Younger credit cardholders just starting out typically have lower credit limits than their older cohorts, so it isn't unusual that Gen Z would have the lowest credit card debt.
Here's the average credit card debt broken down by generation:
- Generation Z: $1,963
- Millennials: $4,322
- Generation X: $7,155
- Baby boomers: $6,043
- Silent generation: $3,177
While credit cards help you pay for your everyday expenses and sometimes reward you for your spending, keeping a balance is expensive no matter how old you are.
Most card issuers charge notoriously high double-digit interest rates whenever you carry a balance. The average credit card APR is 15.91%, according to the Federal Reserve's most recent data. And because the majority of credit card issuers compound interest on a daily basis, your balance grows a little each day it goes unpaid.
Luckily, cardholders with debt can get assistance paying off their balances for good, either through a balance transfer credit card or a personal loan.
How balance transfer credit cards can help
Balance transfer cards let you transfer your existing credit card debt to a new card with an introductory 0% APR period. This period can be anywhere from six to 20 months, depending on the card you choose. During the intro period, you can take time making payments to your outstanding credit card debt without worrying about accruing additional and costly interest. This helps you catch up by allowing all payments you make go toward your principal balance (instead of principal, plus interest charges).
We did the work for you, analyzing over 100 popular balance transfer cards to find the best of the best based on the average American's consumer habits. (See our methodology for more information on how we choose the best cards.)
Our top choice is the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card, which offers an introductory 0% interest for the first 18 billing cycles on both balance transfers and new purchases (after, 19.24% - 29.24% variable APR). Balances must be transferred within 60 days from account opening. That's a long period of time that you can chip away at your credit card debt without it growing month over month (as long as you don't make any additional charges on the card).
U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card
0% for the first 18 billing cycles on balance transfers and purchases
19.24% - 29.24% (Variable)
Balance transfer fee
Either 3% of the amount of each transfer or $5 minimum, whichever is greater
Foreign transaction fee
2% to 3%
See rates and fees. Terms apply.
Make sure you have a repayment plan in place before completing your balance transfer, so you know you can pay off your credit card debt before the 0% APR period is up. Otherwise, you'll wind up paying interest again on lingering balances.
How personal loans can help
As an alternative option to a balance transfer card, a personal loan is a good way to score a lower interest rate on your credit card debt — and you can even find loan amounts that may cover your entire credit card balance.
Personal loans stand out from balance transfer cards in that they give you more time to pay off your debt and allow for larger amounts of debt. With balance transfer credit cards, issuers often limit the total balance(s) you can transfer to a percentage of your credit limit or a specific dollar amount. You likely need good or excellent credit to qualify for a balance transfer card, but with personal loans there are some available if you have bad credit.
Personal loans provide you with a lump sum of cash, then you're responsible for paying back a fixed amount of money, over a fixed time period and at a fixed interest rate, which is often lower than the rate you pay keeping a balance on your credit card.
When you are looking to refinance high-interest credit card debt, SoFi is an ideal lender. They offer personal loans up to $100,000 depending on your creditworthiness, and you can choose between a variable or fixed APR (which not all personal loans have). Signing up and applying is simple to do and its app lets you manage your payments easily no matter where you are. And if you automate your payments, you'll earn a 0.25% interest rate discount. Read our full review of SoFi Personal Loans to learn more.
SoFi Personal Loans
Annual Percentage Rate (APR)
7.99% to 23.43% when you sign up for autopay
Debt consolidation/refinancing, home improvement, relocation assistance or medical expenses
$5,000 to $100,000
24 to 84 months
Good to excellent
No fees required
Early payoff penalty
To determine which credit cards offer the best balance transfer deals, Select analyzed 101 of the most popular credit cards that offer no interest on balance transfers issued by the biggest banks, financial companies and credit unions that allow anyone to join.
We compared each card on a range of features, including: annual fee, balance transfer fee, rewards program, introductory and standard APR, welcome bonuses and foreign transaction fees, as well as factors such as required credit and customer reviews when available.
For balance transfer cards, we used a Bankrate calculator to tally the interest rates and fees you could incur if you transferred $5,313, the average balance Americans carry on their credit cards in 2020, according to Experian.
If the average consumer with a $5,313 balance on their credit card pays $200 each month, they will spend roughly $1,320 in additional interest, assuming the average 16.28% APR, according to the Fed. And it will take them 34 months — nearly three years — to pay off that debt.
With many cards featured on this list, if you take full advantage of the intro APR period and pay $200 per month, you'll pay less than $400 in interest and fees. That's a significant savings.
For the cards that offered a rewards program, we also estimated how much cash back you might earn over a five year period. Select teamed up with location intelligence firm Esri. The company's data development team provided the most up-to-date and comprehensive consumer spending data based on the 2019 Consumer Expenditure Surveys from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can read more about their methodology here.
Esri's data team created a sample annual budget of approximately $22,126 in retail spending. The budget includes six main categories: groceries ($5,174), gas ($2,218), dining out ($3,675), travel ($2,244), utilities ($4,862) and general purchases ($3,953). General purchases include items such as housekeeping supplies, clothing, personal care products, prescription drugs and vitamins, and other vehicle expenses.
Select used this budget to estimate how much the average consumer would save over the course of a year, two years and five years, assuming they would attempt to maximize their rewards potential by earning all welcome bonuses offered and using the card for all applicable purchases. All rewards total estimations are net the annual fee.
It's important to note the value of a point or mile varies from card to card and based on how you redeem them. When we calculated the estimated returns, we assumed that cardholders are redeeming points/miles for a typical maximum value of 1 cent per point or mile. (Extreme optimizers might be able to achieve more value.)
When choosing the best balance transfer card, we focused on the card that provides consumers with the cheapest way to pay off their debt rather than the number of rewards they could potentially earn. When you're in credit card debt, your primary focus should be repayment. Earning rewards should be seen as a bonus, and you don't want to spend beyond your means in order to earn points.
The five-year rewards total and the interest rate and fees estimates are derived from a budget similar to the average American's spending and debt. You may earn a higher or lower return depending on your spending habits.
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