Gen Z joins its predecessors in racking up credit card debt, new research shows
Gen Z is racking up credit card debt at a faster clip than any other generation and now faces $55 billion in debt, according to a new report released by TransUnion (TRU).
By the end of last quarter, Gen Zers–those born between 1995 and 2005–accumulated a total of $55 billion in credit card debt, a 52% jump from $36 billion a year before.
Adding to the growing credit-card trend, TransUnion’s most recent Consumer Pulse findings show that 50% of Gen Z consumers plan to apply for new credit within the next year compared with 32% for the entire population.
“It makes sense to see Gen Z consumers’ use of credit cards and personal loans increase relative to consumers as a whole as they age into financial independence,” said Michele Raneri, vice president of U.S. research and consulting at TransUnion.
U.S. consumers’ debt problem
It’s not just Gen Z who’s racking up the debt—total credit-card balances reached a record $963 billion in the second quarter, a 17.4% increase from the $821 billion we saw last year.
American consumers also saw their collective credit-card bill rise to $1.03 trillion from $986 billion in the first quarter, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
And while Gen Z is racking up the debt fastest, recent Credit Karma data shows that Gen X—those born between 1965 and 1980–hold the most overall debt.
Gen X consumers hold an average of $63,571 in debt–$10,000 higher than Baby Boomers, who have accumulated $53,938 worth of debt.
“Gen X once again had the most credit card debt, but Gen Z increased their credit card balances by a larger percent,” according to the Credit Karma report.
A big driving factor for the increase in credit card usage across all generations of consumers is inflation – which remains at 3.18%.
“Like the overall population, many Gen Z borrowers are facing the same financial challenges brought on by high interest rates and inflation,” said Raneri.
“As a result, they are tapping into these available credit products to help them cope with rising expenses and the tightening of their monthly budgets.”
Why this may not be bad
Despite the eye-popping amount of credit card debt, Gen Z may be best positioned to handle it moving forward.
Research from TransUnion indicates that Gen Z’s swelling balances aren’t a sign of lavishness. Instead, they signify the generation is entering adulthood and handling finances on their own.
“Young consumers today are better educated about their credit,” said Matt Komos, VP of financial services and consulting at TransUnion.
“They can benefit from numerous tools and resources, such as free credit scores and credit score simulators that show the potential impact of paying off debt or opening a credit card.”
Even as Gen Z consumers show a healthier relationship with credit than previous generations, experts warn to use credit with caution as prices and interest rates remain high.