The U.S. General Accounting Office studied 28 popular credit cards offered by the six largest issuers, and reported a range of findings that expose weaknesses in the credit card marketplace. Except where otherwise noted, these statistics come from that report. The report is: Credit Cards: Increased Complexity in Rates and Fees Heightens Need for More Effective Disclosures to Consumers, Government Accountability Office, October 11, 2006.
• U.S. consumers hold more than 691 million credit cards.
• U.S. consumers charge $1.8 trillion per year on their credit cards.
• About 58% of consumers carry a balance on their credit cards.
• 11% of cardholders pay interest rates of more than 25%.
• 35% of active cardholders were charged a late fee in 2005.
• The average late fee rose from $12.83 in 1995 to $33.64 in 2005. For a balance of $2,200, the average late fee was $37.
• Over limit fees averaged $34 in 2005.
• Credit card banks are still charging consumers higher rates if the consumer has a late payment to another creditor. Banks say that they have moved away from “universal default,” but the GAO reports that four of the six largest card issuers are using “change of terms” clauses to raise interest rates based on a cardholder’s credit behavior with another creditor.
• So called “penalty pricing” can dramatically increase the cost of using a credit card.
For more, click here (PDF format only).