Baby Boomers and Credit Card Debt Study

Couple window shopping together

In line with the rest of their debt levels, baby boomers—consumers between the ages of 55 and 73—carried some of the highest credit card debt of any generation in the first quarter (Q1) of 2019. Following only Generation X, who carried the most credit card debt, baby boomers had the second-highest card balances and were trailed closely by millennials, who continue to see their credit card debt levels inch closer to their peers.

As part of our larger look at credit card debt, and to find out more about baby boomer credit card usage, Experian reviewed consumer credit data from Q1 2019 and compared it against historical records to see how the generation spent compared to its peers. Read on for our insights and analysis.

Baby Boomer Average Credit Card Debt Down Since Last Year

Baby boomers carried an average of $6,788 in credit card debt per borrower in Q1 2019, according to Experian data. That's a 1% decrease from the same time last year and is the lowest their debt has been in the past seven years.

The only other generation to see a decrease in credit card debt was the silent generation—people ages 74 and older—who had the same decrease as the boomers. Consumers' total debt burden typically climbs until they reach age 45, at which point balances across most categories begin to decline.

On the other end of the spectrum, millennials, Generation Z and Generation X have all seen their credit card debt increase in the past year. Gen Z saw the biggest spike, with credit card debt growing 11% since Q1 2018.

Credit Card Debt and Credit Scores Across Generations
GenerationAverage FICO® Score Average Credit Card Balance Q1 2018Average Credit Card Balance Q1 2019Year-Over-Year Change
Generation Z668$1,851$2,057+11%
Generation X688$7,781$8,023+3%
Baby Boomers731$6,826$6,788-1%
Silent Generation756$3,642$3,595-1%

Source: Experian Q1 2019 data

Baby Boomers in Alaska Carry Highest Credit Card Debt

Baby boomers in Alaska carried an average of $8,722 each in credit card debt in Q1 2019, the highest among the states. That's nearly $2,000 more than the average among all U.S. baby boomers and is 45% higher than the national average of $6,028, according to Experian data.

Even holding the highest credit card balances, Alaskan baby boomers were still able to maintain good credit scores, with an average FICO® Score of 739.

States With the Highest Baby Boomer Credit Card Debt
StateAverage FICO® ScoreAverage Credit Card BalanceAverage Total Debt
Washington, D.C.706$8,147$168,412
New Jersey737$7,912$109,951
Connecticut 744$7,878$115,322

Source: Experian Q1 2019 data

Iowa Baby Boomers Had Lowest Average Credit Card Balances

Not all baby boomers carried above average credit card debt, and in more than a dozen states, baby boomers had credit card balances that were below the national average. Iowa had the lowest credit card balances among baby boomers, where they carried an average of $4,933 per person in Q1 2019.

Iowa was followed by Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota and Kentucky, whose baby boomers all had average credit card balances under $6,000. Of those five states with the lowest balances, four of them—all except Kentucky—had average credit scores that were in the top 10 of all states among baby boomers.

States With the Lowest Baby Boomer Credit Card Debt
StateAverage FICO® ScoreAverage Credit Card BalanceAverage Total Debt
South Dakota757$5,366$71,465
North Dakota759$5,231$66,302
Wisconsin 754$5,202$71,393

Source: Experian Q1 2019 data

Baby Boomer Credit Card Debt Decreased as Age Increased

Overall, average consumer debt balances peak at age 45 and begin to decline as people grow older, according to Experian data. That trend is identical for baby boomers, and when it comes to credit cards, the younger boomers carry the most debt.

The youngest baby boomers, at age 55, carried an average of $8,113 each in credit card balances in Q1 2019. That figure is considerably higher compared with the average balance of the oldest baby boomers, currently 73, who carried an average of $5,337 each.

Methodology: The analysis results provided are based on an Experian-created statistically relevant aggregate sampling of our consumer credit database that may include use of the FICO® Score 8 version. Different sampling parameters may generate different findings compared with other similar analysis. Analyzed credit data did not contain personal identification information. Metro areas group counties and cities into specific geographic areas for population censuses and compilations of related statistical data.

FICO® is a registered trademark of Fair Isaac Corporation in the U.S. and other countries.