Worldwide Credit Card Statistics

Just how many credit cards are out there these days? Who spends the most on them? Who owes the most? Here are some fascinating credit card statistics from across the globe broken down by country. You might be surprised by some of them!


As of 2010 it was estimated that there were 16 million credit cards in circulation in Australia and that in 2009 Australians spent $19.89 billion on those cards in October of 2009 alone and the average individual credit card balance in that month was $3, 141.00. Unfortunately Australia has the highest rate of cyber crime on the planet and that means that over $1 billion every year is being lost by banks and individual cardholders to credit card fraud committed on the Internet. Despite the fact that in a survey commissioned by one of the country’s largest credit bureaus an astonishing 1.1 million people reported having been victims of credit fraud of some kind (there are 14 million people in Australia) only 30% of those surveyed said they had ever taken any special steps to protect their credit cards or their personal identity online.


Credit card usage in China has increased dramatically over the last few years. In 2003 there were only 3 million credit cards in circulation (remembering that China’s population is approximately 1.34 billion) By March of 2008 that figure had risen to 104 million and when the last figures were compiled in November of 2008 the number of credit cards held by Chinese citizens had risen to 160 million.

The default rate on credit cards in China is believed to run at around 2%, one of the lowest rates in the world. The reason for that might be that under Chinese law a person who defaults on a credit card and owes as little as $3,000 can be imprisoned for up to five years for their “reckless financial behavior”.

Most of the credit cards in China are believed to be held by those who live in and around larger cities like Beijing and it is believed that the 2008 Olympics, which saw an increased number of Chinese merchants agree to take credit cards to accommodate foreign visitors has had a lot to do with the rapid rise in credit card use in China.


For many years despite being a growing center of worldwide industry Japan was really not a nation that had that much time for the concept of credit cards but that is changing and in 2009 a survey of 14,000 Japanese citizens found that while 15% of them still had no credit cards and no intention of getting one 48% of those surveyed said that they now held three or more credit and charge cards. However only 11% of those people charged more than the equivalent of $1,000 a month to them, with mosts reporting that the average monthly spend was around $230 a month and most paid off their balances in full every month.


Russia is another country that has seen a rapid rise in the number of credit cards issued to its citizens in the past few years. In 2007 there were just 12 million credit cards in Russian hands but by 2009 that figure had risen to 24 million and analysts predict there will be more than 35 million credit cards in use by the end of 2011. Still though outside of the largest cities Russians still prefer cold hard cash and many people use their credit cards more like debit cards so that they can pay in cash and not encounter too many difficulties.


In the UK people are almost as fond of credit cards as they are in the US, and have almost as much credit card debt. In a country of about 60 million people the fact that it is believed that there were about 50 million credit cards in circulation in 2009 is really quite an eyeopener. Many people admit to holding multiple credit cards and regularly use them to pay bills like rent and mortgage debts as well as for retail spending. Credit card debt in the UK is second only to the US in the world with 69% of credit card holders carrying a balance on their credit cards every month.

There are fewer credit cards elsewhere in Europe. The French and Spanish are the next biggest countries with higher credit card usage at 34 million and 18 million respectively. By comparison there are only about 4 million credit cards in Germany, despite the fact that the German population is larger than the French. Most Germans prefer to use debit cards to control their spending instead as there are in comparison more than 91 million debit cards in use in the country.


It is really only in South Africa, and to a lesser extent Nigeria that credit cards are commonplace in Africa. The first credit card to make its way to South Africa wasn’t really a credit card at all as American Express was the first “plastic” introduced into the country in 1967. Since then though credit card use has exploded, especially over the last decade with 8 million credit cards in circulation ahead of the 2010 World Cup. One quirk of South African credit card use was that it was illegal to pay for gas with a credit card, although debit cards when they were introduced were acceptable. When the 2010 World Cup brought millions of foreigners into the country though that law was changed.

Who Owes the Most?

With increased credit card usage comes increased credit card debt (with as we have mentioned the apparent exception of China!) As of 2009 according to US News and World Report the following countries were carrying the biggest credit card debt burdens (figures are in billions of dollars!)

US – $775.0

UK – $87.5

Canada – $73.9

Australia – $40.4