The 25 U.S. cities with the most millennial credit card debt on average

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In a Nutshell

Credit Karma millennial members in the U.S. owe more than $56 billion in total credit card debt, about $1,808 each on average, according to a recent Credit Karma analysis. But millennials in some cities have much higher credit card balances, the analysis shows.

Where have millennials racked up the most credit card debt?

We took a look at more than 30 million Credit Karma millennial members in the U.S. and found the top 25 U.S. cities where millennial members have the most credit card debt on average. (Learn more about our methodology.)

City Average millennial credit card debt
1. Irvine, CA $3,327
2. San Francisco, CA $3,104
3. Virginia Beach, VA $2,994
4. San Diego, CA $2,989
5. Hialeah, FL $2,982
6. Fremont, CA $2,981
7. Chula Vista, CA $2,978
8. Scottsdale, AZ $2,901
9. Honolulu, HI $2,821
10. Plano, TX $2,795
11. Miami, FL $2,714
12. New York City, NY $2,677
13. Boston, MA $2,660
14. San Jose, CA $2,636
15. Chesapeake, VA $2,526
16. Seattle, WA $2,488
17. Irving, TX $2,462
18. Gilbert, AZ $2,445
19. Anaheim, CA $2,398
20. Jersey City, NJ $2,397
21. Los Angeles, CA $2,392
22. Washington, D.C. $2,298
23. Chandler, AZ $2,291
24. Santa Ana, CA $2,279
25. Denver, CO $2,273

Key findings

California dominates the list, claiming half of the top 10 cities and over a third of the top 25 cities. Irvine and San Francisco top the rankings as the West Coast cities with the most credit card debt on average among U.S. millennial members.
Millennial members in Irvine, Calif., have 84% more credit card debt on average than all other U.S. Credit Karma millennial members analyzed.
In total, the millennial members we looked at in U.S. have more than $56 billion in credit card debt — but this is just one component of millennial debt. Credit card debt makes up only 6% of millennial debt for these U.S. millennial members. Mortgage debt makes up almost half of their debt, and student loan debt makes up 17%.
Fear of missing out may play a role in millennial credit card debt. In a previous study, Credit Karma found that grabbing drinks with friends was one of the biggest FOMO triggers among millennials surveyed. In our analysis of credit card debt among U.S. members, we found that 18 of the cities with the highest average millennial credit card debt fell in the top 25 metropolitan areas with the most bars (according to 2016 U.S. Census Bureau data).

The West Coast is a gold mine for credit card debt

When it comes to credit card debt, millennial members in the top 25 cities far surpass their peers in other parts of the country, according to Credit Karma user data. But California beat out the other states on the list, claiming half of the top 10 cities and nine of the top 25.

What’s more, the two cities where millennial members have the highest credit card debt are both in California. In Irvine, millennial members owe $3,327 on average, which is 84% higher than the average credit card debt for all other U.S. Credit Karma millennial members analyzed. And in San Francisco, millennial members owe an average of $3,104 (about 72% higher than the average).

Even though Southern California and Northern California share the top spots on the list, millennial members in SoCal racked up more credit card debt than those in Northern California. In fact, two-thirds of the Californian cities on the list can be found in the southern half of the state.

Credit cards are the least of millennials’ debt burden

Credit card debt totaling $56 billion may seem like a lot, but it’s only a small part of the millennial debt picture.

Millennial Credit Karma members in the U.S. have nearly $930 billion of debt overall, and those who carry debt each have $46,713 on average. And only 6% of that comes from credit cards.

Where does the rest of the debt come from? The Credit Karma millennial members we analyzed owe nearly three times as much in student loans, and almost eight times as much in mortgages.

A pie chart that breaks down millennial debt in the U.S.

 

FOMO and stress may be contributing to millennial credit card debt

A recent Credit Karma/Qualtrics study of 1,045 U.S. millennials revealed that nearly 40% of millennials have gone into debt to keep up with their friends. Millennials from the survey also reported that grabbing drinks with friends or coworkers ranked as one of the most FOMO-inducing situations for them. So it was no surprise to find that 18 of the cities with the most credit card debt on average among U.S. millennial members are also found in the top 25 metropolitan areas with the most bars.

What’s more, another Credit Karma survey found that more than half of respondents said they “stress spent” — meaning they’ve impulsively shopped to deal with feelings of stress, anxiety or depression. Millennials from the survey were more likely than Gen Xers and baby boomers to stress spend, with 68% of millennials reporting to have done it.

With FOMO and stress rife throughout the millennial generation, millennials’ credit card balances may be taking the hit.


Tips to pay off credit card debt

If you’ve found yourself with an out-of-control credit card balance, don’t worry. You’re not alone and there are definitely ways out. Here are a few tips to help you get out of credit card debt:

Consider a balance transfer

Consider a credit card that offers a promotional 0% interest rate on balance transfers so less of your money goes toward interest and more can go toward paying down your principal. 

Create a budget, write it down and stick to it

Keeping a mental budget doesn’t always cut it. If you really want to get your finances in order, we recommend writing down a monthly budget and checking it often. Be realistic about your spending habits and limitations, and refine your budget as you learn more about yourself and your financial habits. Challenge yourself to save more than you usually would and consider putting those savings toward your credit card debt.

Cut small expenses to free up some funds

Haven’t been listening to Spotify as much as you thought you would? Cancel it. Only watch one or two cable shows but pay for the full package? Cut the cord and move to a subscription service like Netflix or Hulu. You could even try kicking your Starbucks habit or starting to look for free weekend activities — there are many ways to trim down your expenses.


Methodology

To generate a list of the top 25 cities where millennials have the most credit card debt, we looked at credit card balances from March 2018 of more than 30 million 18- to 34-year-old Credit Karma members located in 99 of the most populated cities in the U.S. To calculate the average credit card debt among Credit Karma millennial members in the U.S., we looked at all credit card balances for a sector of our U.S. millennial members ages 18 to 34. For comparison, we also looked at credit card debt among U.S. members in other age groups and other types of debt among millennial members in the U.S. All percentages are rounded to the nearest whole percent. All dollar amounts are rounded to the nearest dollar.

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