Report: Older Americans Running Up Credit Card Debt

Job loss, medical bills lead to a growing debt burden.

June 10, 2013

The National Survey on Credit Card Debt, conducted last year for AARP by Demos, surveyed 997 middle-income households that carried credit card debt for at least three months.

Households headed by someone age 50 and older carried an average credit card balance of $8,278, compared with an average debt of $6,258 for households headed by someone younger than age 50.

The survey also found:

► Half of the older households paid for medical expenses, such as prescription drugs and dental expenses, with their credit cards;

► 34% of the older households used their credit cards to pay for basic living expenses such as groceries, utilities, and housing;

► Job loss was a factor in running up credit card debt in nearly 25% of older households; and

► 23% of older households have taken on credit card debt to help other family members, versus 11% of younger households.