What's a "normal" amount of credit card debt?

Debt is a part of life. In a lot of ways it’s a necessary evil (that’s only really evil when it gets out of hand). It’s probably pretty easy to tell when you have too much debt, but is there such a thing as a “normal” amount of debt?

Average vs. “normal”

The average adult consumer in the United States has over $5,500 in credit card debt. That’s according to research from credit reporting agency Experian. So does that make $5,500 a normal amount? Not really.

The truth is that that average represents an incredibly wide range of consumers. Some folks carry significantly more debt. Some carry no debt at all.

How much debt you can or should carry is dependent on your income and ability to repay. It recently came out, for example, that Netflix is currently carrying $20 billion in debt. They don’t seem overly concerned about that, though, because that’s part of their growth strategy and they have the projected revenue to make it work. If I were $20 billion is debt, however, that would not be good. That would be quite bad actually.

Normal = “healthy”

So the question isn’t really “What’s a normal amount of credit card debt to carry?” It’s “What’s a healthy amount to carry?” To know that, you first have to answer these two questions:

Are you meeting your obligations? As soon as your debt becomes too large to comfortably manage, it’s no longer healthy.

Is the debt in service to your goals? Businesses and entrepreneurs carry debt because “you have to spend money to make money”. Mortgage debt and student loan debt are often necessary if you want to own a house or get a college degree. Credit card debt – while far from ideal – can be healthy, as long as it’s a part of your plan.

If you can’t quite keep up because of your debt, or if the debt isn’t “helpful” in some way, then it’s not a healthy or normal debt and you should consider taking steps to repay that debt as quickly as possible. If you need help putting together a repayment plan or a revamped budget, consider speaking with one of our certified debt and budget counselors!

Jesse Campbell is the Content Manager at MMI. All typos are a stylistic choice, honest.