Retail Credit Balances Decrease Slightly in 2019

Retail Credit Balances Decrease Slightly in 2019 article image.

Retail cards, retail lines of credit and store cards are popular with consumers who are loyal to certain brands or are having a hard time getting approved for other credit cards. Retail cards often come with incentives such as loyalty rewards or store discounts, and may also offer zero-interest financing to start.

Retail card balances in the U.S. totaled $90 billion in the second quarter (Q2) of 2019, according to Experian data. That's a 7% increase compared with five years ago, but a decrease of 2% compared with Q2 2018.

Despite the decrease in total retail credit card balances, consumers continue to sign up for these cards, as new retail card accounts increased 5% year over year.

As part of our ongoing analysis of consumer credit behavior, Experian analyzed retail card data from Q2 2019 to see the latest credit behavior among Americans. Read on to learn how consumers manage retail credit cards.

Retail Credit Card Snapshot

The average retail credit card balance among U.S. consumers who only have a retail card is $2,864, while people carrying both a retail card and other credit card(s) have an average credit card balance of $6,809.

Retail Card Snapshot
All U.S. ConsumersConsumers Who Only Have a Retail CardConsumers Who Have Retail and Other Credit Cards
Average FICO® Score 703575728
Average Retail Card Balance$1,155$2,864$6,809

Source: Experian Q2 2019 data

Retail Card Holders and FICO® Scores

Consumers who carry only a retail credit card tend to have lower FICO® Scores than those who have a retail card in addition to other credit cards, according to Experian data.

Among U.S. consumers who have a retail card and other credit cards, 72% have a FICO® Score of 670 or higher. When that view is narrowed to consumers who carry only a retail card, 82% have a FICO® Score of 669 or lower, which is typically considered subprime.

While having only a retail card is not a reason for low scores in itself, these cards are often one of the first credit cards approved for consumers who are new to credit or have a lower credit score. With only one credit card, consumers are more likely to have a higher credit utilization rate and shorter credit history, both of which can bring down credit scores.

FICO® Scores for Retail Credit Card Users
FICO® Score RangesCarries a Retail Card and Other CardsCarries Only a Retail Card
300-579 (Very Poor)10.8%62.1%
580-669 (Fair)17.4%20.6%
670-739 (Good)21.3%10.3%
740-799 (Very Good)26.7%6.6%
800-850 (Exceptional) 23.8%0.4%

Source: Experian Q2 2019 data

The average retail card balance among those with FICO® Scores considered very poor (300-579) has grown 27% in the past five years, the largest gain among the credit ranges. FICO® Scores considered exceptional (800-850), have grown 26% in the past 10 years among people with retail cards, the largest gain in that time period among the different ranges.

Retail Cards by Income

When looking at income levels of consumers with retail credit cards, the trend is similar to FICO® Scores.

Income Levels for Retail Credit Card Users
Retail Credit Card UsersCarries a
Retail Card and Other Cards
Only a Retail Card
$25K or less16.10%23.20%

Source: Experian Q2 2019 data

Retail Card Balances Increase Most for Those in Their 20s and 30s

On average, 38.7% of Americans have a retail card, which is a 7% increase from five years ago but a slight decrease from a year ago and from 2017. Still, the average balances are increasing for nearly all age groups, with growth dominated by consumers in their 20s and 30s.

Average Number of Retail Cards and Retail Card Balance by Age Group
AgesAverage Number of Retail CardsYear-Over-Year % ChangeAverage Retail Card BalanceYear-Over-Year % Change

Source: Experian Q2 2019 data

Baby Boomers and Gen Xers Dominate Retail Card Market

Among generations, baby boomers (55-73) and Generation X (39-54) account for 60% of people with a retail card. Generation Z (18-22) and millennials (23-38) were the only generations that saw increases in the percentage of people with a retail card from Q2 2018 to Q2 2019, at 63% and 5%, respectively.

Generation Z consumers who carried only a retail card accounted for the highest percentage of consumers in the very poor to good scoring ranges.

Baby boomers, meanwhile, had the highest percentage among the very good (740-799) FICO® Score range while the excellent (800-850) range saw the silent generation (74+) with the highest percentage of consumers with a retail card.

FICO® Score Ranges for Retail Card-Only Consumers
Score Range300-579
Very Poor
Very Good
Generation Z (18-22)18.3%27.8%41.0%12.4%0.5%
Millennials (23-38)13.2%24.1%27.1%25.1%10.5%
Generation X (39-54)4.8%13.2%20.0%27.5%34.6%
Baby Boomers (55-73)9.4%21.0%25.0%24.4%20.2%
Silent Generation (74+)3.5%8.8%15.3%33.0%39.5%

Source: Experian Q2 2019 data

Retail Card Delinquencies Are Down

Retail card delinquency rates have decreased and charge-offs have gone down 12% in Q2 2019 year over year. Charge-offs occur when a lender fails to get payment on a debt and closes your account or hands the debt over to a collection agency. While delinquency rates are higher now than they were five years ago, they are still far below the rates at the height of the Great Recession.

Texas Tops States With Highest Average Retail Card Debt

Consumers in Texas carried the highest average amount of retail credit card debt among states at $1,470 in Q2 2019. Georgia and Mississippi both came next, at $1,372 each. Hawaii had the lowest average retail card balance in Q2 2019 at $799, followed by Vermont at $815 and Wisconsin at $817.

Every state saw an increase to its average retail card balance compared with the previous year. Hawaii experienced the biggest growth, as the average retail card balance increased by 6.1%. The states with the smallest average increases in credit card debt were Kentucky, where the average balance increased 0.7% year over year, and Kansas, where the average balance increased 0.9%.

Average Retail Card Balances by State
District Of Columbia$1,003$9683.6%
North Carolina$1,252$1,2351.4%
North Dakota$891$8623.4%
New Hampshire$1,046$1,0103.6%
New Jersey$1,145$1,1093.2%
New Mexico$1,230$1,2022.3%
New York$1,126$1,0972.6%
Rhode Island$1,173$1,1244.4%
South Carolina$1,275$1,2521.8%
South Dakota$843$8074.5%
West Virginia$1,302$1,2593.4%

Source: Experian Q2 2019 data

Fayetteville, North Carolina, Has Highest Retail Card Debt Among Metro Areas

Fayetteville, North Carolina, carried the highest average amount of retail card debt at $1,753 in Q2 2019. La Crosse, Wisconsin-Minnesota, had the lowest average amount of retail card debt at $650 in Q2 2019.

Decatur, Alabama, saw the largest year-over-year increase of 12.7%, while Jackson, Mississippi, had the biggest decrease in the past year at 5.8%. Looking at the average credit card debt changes this past year by metropolitan areas, 332 metro areas saw their average retail card balances increase, while 41 metro areas that saw their balances decrease.

Highest Average Retail Card Balances Ranked by Metro Area
Metro Area20192018Change
Fayetteville, NC $1,753$1,7251.6%
Corpus Christi, TX $1,713$1,6464.1%
Pine Bluff, AR $1,712$1,730-1.0%
Odessa, TX $1,705$1,717-0.7%
McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX $1,703$1,6870.9%
Hinesville-Fort Stewart, GA $1,675$1,6273.0%
Killeen-Temple-Fort Hood, TX $1,670$1,675-0.3%
Midland, TX $1,669$1,6054.0%
San Antonio, TX $1,643$1,6201.4%
El Paso, TX $1,617$1,5921.6%
Laredo, TX $1,611$1,5792.0%
Albany, GA $1,596$1,5443.4%
Brownsville-Harlingen, TX $1,595$1,5781.1%
Sumter, SC $1,573$1,4627.6%
Warner Robins, GA $1,566$1,5232.8%
Lubbock, TX $1,518$1,4872.1%
Valdosta, GA $1,517$1,4772.7%
Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX $1,516$1,4881.9%
Columbus, GA-AL $1,515$1,523-0.5%
Memphis, TN-AR-MS $1,511$1,4762.4%
Montgomery, AL $1,498$1,4721.8%
Monroe, LA $1,489$1,4413.3%
Farmington, NM $1,482$1,4144.8%
Columbia, SC $1,477$1,486-0.6%
Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC $1,476$1,4313.1%
Jacksonville, NC $1,465$1,476-0.7%
Victoria, TX $1,465$1,4322.3%
Longview, TX $1,464$1,4232.9%
Shreveport-Bossier City, LA $1,457$1,471-1.0%
Sherman-Denison, TX $1,455$1,4182.6%
Tuscaloosa, AL $1,454$1,503-3.3%
Elizabethtown, KY $1,448$1,481-2.2%
Goldsboro, NC $1,436$1,4151.5%
Savannah, GA $1,435$1,4002.5%
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX $1,427$1,4190.6%
Macon, GA $1,425$1,3515.5%
Jackson, MS $1,419$1,3991.4%
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL $1,416$1,3604.1%
Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR $1,413$1,3911.6%
Waco, TX $1,410$1,3494.5%
Hattiesburg, MS $1,408$1,3980.7%
Gulfport-Biloxi, MS $1,403$1,408-0.4%
Clarksville, TN-KY $1,401$1,405-0.3%
Abilene, TX $1,395$1,3225.5%
Rocky Mount, NC $1,395$1,3781.2%
Houma-Bayou Cane-Thibodaux, LA $1,392$1,3652.0%
New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, LA $1,391$1,3513.0%
Pascagoula, MS $1,390$1,3592.3%
Texarkana, TX-AR $1,388$1,403-1.1%
Jackson, TN $1,383$1,3671.2%
Vineland-Millville-Bridgeton, NJ $1,383$1,2976.6%

Source: Experian Q2 2019

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.

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