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American credit card market springs back

29 November 2022

Revealing data and forecasts in the latest report on the world's most valuable credit cards market

Credit cards in the US have rebounded spectacularly from the pandemic, with estimated spending for 2022 over 50 percent higher than in 2020, according to a new report on the United States' cards and digital payments market from Argus Advisory Research (AAR).

Credit cards continue to be Americans' preferred way to pay, though debit cards have closed the gap over the years. Cash displacement has ensured continued high growth in card spending, but preferences have fluctuated depending on economic conditions.

us credit vs debit card spend

As the chart shows, debit-card spending grew rapidly in the early years of the century as consumers began to use cards for more everyday spend.
In the wake of the global financial crisis, there was a further shift towards debit as banks tightened credit criteria and consumers deleveraged.
From 2011, credit cards enjoyed a sustained period of high growth as issuers incentivised spending through attractive rewards programmes, and the economy recovered.

Card spend roars back, with credit leading the way

The arrival of the pandemic in early 2020 introduced another shock to the system, with credit-card spending declining while debit-card spending was unaffected.
The following year saw a strong recovery in card spending: both card types recorded growth of over 20 per cent. Credit-card spending continues to boom in 2022, while debit growth has returned to more normal growth levels.

The long-term pattern is clear: the credit card remains the payment vehicle of choice for US consumers: it has powerfully demonstrated its resilience and adaptability in the face of the two biggest global shocks so far this century, with its progress unhindered by threats from the tech sector such as pay-by-bank methods and cryptocurrency.

Global context from Argus Advisory Research

Credit card spending is high in the US by international standards, particularly when compared to similarly developed Western economies. Among those, only Canada saw a higher proportion of card spend on credit cards.

proportion of total card spend with credit cards

In Europe, a cultural aversion to unsecured credit coupled with interchange caps which dilute rewards, has resulted in much lower rates of credit card use. Indeed, with the majority of balances in France and Germany paid down at the end of the month, the majority of credit card spending is not even on true revolving cards.

Australia has a strong culture of credit card use, but regulation of interchange fees has contributed to a slowdown in recent years. Emerging markets such as India, Brazil and Mexico have different dynamics at play, with credit cards used heavily by the affluent segment while debit cards and, more recently, mobile payments are displacing cash use among the general population.

Argus Advisory Research's report is one of many individual country reports, each with unique profit pool metrics and analysis. Leveraging data reaching back to 2010 – and forecasts up to 2025 – this extensive data set offers between 200 and 250 metrics for each market.
Featuring appendices that set out the market positions of the leading issuers and acquirers, each publication comes with detailed data tables as well as informative and carefully compiled charts.

Each AAR market report takes a consistent approach, with clear-sighted commentary and in-depth data providing comparable insight across markets. The US country report is available for subscribers to download now, or to order online.

Order now | Subscriber download | About Argus Advisory Research

About Argus Advisory Research The market-leading online, interactive database and data dashboards covering the global cards and payments industry in detail, plus a range of data-packed country and regional reports. Leveraging financial cards data going back to 2010 – and forecasts up to 2022 – our unique datasets cover countries around the world and feature more than 250 metrics per market.

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