Americans can't live without credit cards, but the question of at which age consumers should take on their first piece of plastic is far from settled.
Two-thirds of Americans got their first credit card before they turned 25, but consumers generally believe that people are ready much earlier, a new survey from CreditCards.com found. Asked when someone should get their first credit card in their own name, the average response of 1,000 polled consumers was 22 years old.
That's a philosophy that many Americans are already putting into practice, with 47 percent of credit card holders noting that they received their first card before they turned 21. However, many of those consumers received their cards before the 2009 CARD Act, which limited marketing and issuing of credit cards to young adults. While America has been criticized as "credit card nation," a country addicted to debt, there may be a generational shift in the works, given that more than one in three consumers between 18-29 have never had a credit card.
"Millennials' financial views were forged during the Great Recession and in the apocalyptic job market that they and their friends have faced. That skittishness has pushed them away from credit cards towards debit and prepaid cards," said Matt Schulz, CreditCards.com's senior analyst, in a statement.
The survey found a stark divide between rural and urban consumers and their views on when young adults are ready for the responsibility of having their own credit card. Only 46 percent of rural residents say someone should get their first credit card before 25, compared with 70 percent of urban and suburban residents.
Almost one in 10 rural residents also said that consumers should never have a credit card, compared with only 2 percent of urbanites and suburbanites, the study found.
The average U.S. household credit card debt is $15,611, based on only those households that are carrying debt, according to NerdWallet. Including all households -- such as those that don't have any card debt -- the average household owes $7,283.
While that may seem like a lot, it actually marks an improvement from 2009, when household credit card debt rose to an average of $19,000, thanks to the fallout of the economic crisis, which placed financial pressures on many families. Since 2011, credit card debt levels have hovered at about $15,600.