"Avoiding The Mistakes Of Our Parents" - Only A Third Of Millennials Have A Credit Card

Nearly a decade has passed since Lehman Brothers collapsed, ushering in the most acute phase of the financial crisis - yet, despite all the time that has passed many millennials remain deeply distrustful of banks and borrowed money, according to a study published by Bankrate.

The study found that, while a majority of older Americans own credit cards, only 33% of adults between the ages of 18 and 29 say they have one. That is, even as the economy and job prospects have improved, millions of Americans continue to shun credit - something that is probably related to the massive pile of student loan debt, the bulk of it borne by millennials, who are defaulting in ever-greater numbers.

While that figure might seem surprisingly large, it's actually down from two years ago, when Bankrate discovered that two-thirds of young adults said they had no "major" credit cards, defined as cards issued by either American Express, Visa, MasterCard or Discover.


In interviews with several "real-life" millennials, Bankrate said they hadn't even considered getting a credit card. Others said they shunned credit cards because of previous financial problems.

"I’ve never owned nor have ever wanted to own a credit card,” says Kristian Rivera, 25, a digital marketing specialist in New York City.

“It wasn’t really a decision that I made, but growing up I was warned of the risks of having a credit card and advised to put off getting one as long as possible.”

"We don’t want to make the same mistakes our parents made in the past," Rivera says. "We want to do things smarter and safer."

For millions of Americans, the agglomeration of debt that most people have accumulated by early adulthood is forcing them to put off marrying or starting a family. And roughly one-third of adult millennials are still living in their parents' basements. 

Darnell Billups, 29, a U.S. Marine Corps captain stationed in Twentynine Palms, California, says when he and his wife, Natasha, married in 2011, they had a combined $40,000 in debt, including credit cards and student loans. They paid off their debts in 2013, just 2 weeks before Billups was deployed to Afghanistan for the second time.

"Our thing is, we will never have a credit card ever again," Billups says.

More than just credit cards, the couple wants to steer clear of all debt. They recently opened a photography business, Emmanuel Photography & Designs, without taking on any debt, and they plan to eventually buy a house using only cash.

"It’s been just wonderful because we don’t have to pay anyone back," he says.

To be sure, young adults aren’t the only demographic group shying away from credit card use...

...While it doesn't perfectly align, credit card use is most common among groups that are also more likely to own stocks. According to one study, one in three millennials say they would rather own bitcoin than stocks (though, to be fair, that's probably due to bitcoin's torrid rally late last year.

Here's a breakdown provided by BankRate:

  • Have an annual income of less than $30,000.
  • Haven’t attended college.
  • Are black or Hispanic.

Credit card ownership is most prevalent among:

  • Baby boomers.
  • College graduates.
  • Adults with an annual income of more than $75,000.
  • Those who identify themselves as Republicans.

Unsurprisingly, people with higher incomes are more likely to own credit cards:


By avoiding credit cards, millions of millennials will find it difficult to obtain other types of credit - like mortgages or car loans - when they need it.

Marc Aschoff learned this lesson when he and a group of friends tried to buy a rental property shortly after college. But since Aschoff had never had a credit card, he hadn’t developed a solid credit history and none of the mortgage brokers he spoke with would qualify him for a mortgage.

"Needless to say, this isn’t something I considered," says Aschoff, 25, of Hoboken, New Jersey.

Aschoff and one of his business partners, Chris Sorrentino, also 25, say they now own credit cards only to help with their credit scores. And building up their credit helped them qualify for a mortgage.

The survey was conducted May 19-22, 2016, by Princeton Survey Research Associates International and included responses from 1,002 adults living in the continental United States. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.

They now own 3 rental properties near Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. In January, Aschoff, Sorrentino and 2 other partners in their real estate firm — Acrez LLC — purchased a house in Springfield, New Jersey, with cash. They are now renovating and hope to resell.

"The only debt we really take on is mortgage debt," Aschoff says. “Other than that, debt is not our friend."

Given the fact that millions of millennials can't even be bothered to get even a low-limit card, it probably won't come as a surprise that millennials also don't care about so-called "status" cards like the American Express Black Card.


Given millennials well-documented preference for experiences - like travel - over material possessions, their unwillingness to apply for credit cards might seem foolish. 

After all, they're missing out on all those free miles...


Skateboarder Fri, 03/02/2018 - 22:51 Permalink

It's not about not having a credit card. It's about being able to pay your balance off in FULL every month without feeling the pinch. If you can't do that, you shouldn't buy shit on credit. Is that so hard to understand? Guess it is...

J S Bach stizazz Fri, 03/02/2018 - 23:18 Permalink

"It's not about not having a credit card. It's about being able to pay your balance off in FULL every month without feeling the pinch. If you can't do that, you shouldn't buy shit on credit. Is that so hard to understand? Guess it is..."

Skateboarder... you are my new guru.

Amen, brother.  I have yet to (in my 52 years of life) pay anything but the complete monthly balance on any credit card I've ever held in my possession.  If I can't pay for something immediately (outside a mortgage), I will not even consider it.

In reply to by stizazz

Skateboarder J S Bach Fri, 03/02/2018 - 23:30 Permalink

Brother Bach, I learned the importance of immediate affordability very quickly out of college after stacking up $2.5K on the card without a job in hand. The conscience of debt weighed heavy, and I was glad to pay it off quickly after being employed (thankfully I'm a skilled engineer with knowledge and abilities that are always in demand and will pay well). Never again did I stack up a penny more on credit than I had the ability to pay off immediately.

Another thing I learned along the way was that you don't help yourself by not having a credit card in this strange place we live in.

Simply by having a credit card and paying it off every regularly, you can have a really good credit score, which (god help us, shouldn't be how humans are judged) helps you not be more fvcked than you already are.

I was astounded to know how good my score is, simply by having that card, using it, and paying it off in full every month.

What a world!

In reply to by J S Bach

not-me---it-wa… Coinista Sat, 03/03/2018 - 07:37 Permalink

help me with the maff.


if johhny buys a bitcoin at $20,000, and wants to

order a pizza for $30 next week, when the bitcoin

price dorpped to $12,000, what interest rate is

johhny paying? 


oops, wait, the price bumped up to $13,550 while

the pizza hut clerk was taking his order.  that's



no, wait again, it dropped to $9,578 before the

sale was rung up.  darn.

In reply to by Coinista

Mineshaft Gap RAT005 Sat, 03/03/2018 - 14:54 Permalink

A further angle to consider: student loans now finance lifestyles along with crappy PC indoctrination.

The following article in, of all places, the NY Post cites two student loan refinancers for the claim that 20-30% of borrowers fuel their spring break drinkathons with their loans.

Can there be a more telling sign of what’s wrong with our diploma mills than an outfit called Student Loan Hero?


In reply to by RAT005

hongdo Donald J. Trump Sat, 03/03/2018 - 12:33 Permalink

Personal credit cards have a great benefit in protecting you from fraud.  Debit cards and business credit cards do not provide the $50 max loss feature.  Some banks claim their debit cards are loss protected but if you read the fine print that promise is not binding and if your account is cleaned out - tough luck.  Rechargeable cards seem like the answer by limiting your loss to the card balance, but the govt does not like them and I had one turned off once.  So now I keep a debit card on an account in a different bank from my main accounts so no linking and I control the current balance.

One of my cards gets hacked every 6 months and no big deal.  They delete the charges and send me a new one. And I have flown free for the last 10 years.

Read the agreement on whatever you sign up for.

In reply to by Donald J. Trump

Got The Wrong No Donald J. Trump Sat, 03/03/2018 - 14:23 Permalink

I just learned a lesson. I had 3 paid off credit cards I haven't used in over 6 years due to the fact that I use a Debit card. I just checked my Credit Karma account and all 3 cards. which had a combined credit limit of  $80,000, have been closed by the issuing banks. I have no outstanding debt. My credit score dropped from 780 to 660. Credit Karma is now saying I have no credit history. If you need to keep a good credit score use your cards and pay off the balance every month. I screwed up. I do find it interesting that all 3 cards were closed at the same time with no advanced warning. 

My Debit card was hacked about 9 months ago for $2200. The bank did cover the loss. 

In reply to by Donald J. Trump

AGuy JRobby Sat, 03/03/2018 - 12:37 Permalink


"Credit Sesame’s proprietary data also shows that those groups had lower credit card balances than older Credit Sesame members, but higher credit card utilization (partly because credit limits are often lower for those just starting out in the workforce)."

"Credit card utilization for those ages 18-24 is 31 percent with an average credit limit of about $5,700, compared with 20 percent for all age groups. "

[So Millennials are heavily using CCs its just that there credit limit is substantially lower which masks how much CC debt they borrow]

"Millennials choosing to purchase a car have higher auto loan balances than older age groups."

In reply to by JRobby

Stuck on Zero wee-weed up Sat, 03/03/2018 - 09:18 Permalink

My wife owns a number of condo properties that she rents out, mostly to millennials. Not one of her renters has a checking account. They pay with cashiers checks or cash. A third of the time they are behind in their rent. The Uber driver had transmission troubles and needed a $1200 repair, didn't have savings to cover it, and couldn't generate any revenue while it was laid up. The young lady who worked as a waitress got sick and couldn't work. One guy lost both of his roommates and couldn't cover the rent from his part time job in delivery. My wife spends two or three hours every month listening to excuses. She thinks they are more interesting than soap operas.

In reply to by wee-weed up

just the tip wee-weed up Sat, 03/03/2018 - 11:59 Permalink


if not a credit card then a debit card, and given some of the banks marketing campaigns, it can serve the same purpose.  overdraft protection much?

in my liquor store, i had people coming in making $2.10 purchases.  they had maybe $1.10 in change in their pockets.  then they would go fill up gasoline, then go to subway.  everything on the debit card.  cashless.

they may not being playing into the credit card companies schemes but they are suckers for the local banks.

In reply to by wee-weed up

Endgame Napoleon wee-weed up Sat, 03/03/2018 - 12:52 Permalink

Take into consideration that Millennials are the prime, womb-productivity-based, welfare-eligible group. When your main expenses in life, like rent and groceries, are paid or reduced by government, with the additional boost of larger paychecks via child-tax-credit welfare that topped out at $6,444 before doubled by Swampers, you do not need to have a credit card to finance a roof over your head if you lose a churn job.

Womb productivity provides financial security, even though you are only working part time to stay below the earned-income limits for the ever-expanding number of pay-per-birth welfare benefits.

It is a different matter when a single stream of earned-only income—with no spousal income and no pay for sex and reproduction from government—must cover all of your household bills, including rent that absorbs more than half of your monthly income.

You are also not in the openly discriminatory, back-watching gangs of frequently absentee working moms, so you cannot count on getting one of the many jobs “voted best for moms” when you lose a churn job that represents all of your earned-only income, but not all of the unearned income of a womb-productive, pay-per-birth Millennial mom or a Millennial mom with a spousal income or child support that covers her rent.

I notice a few debt-free Millennials with dual-high-earner parents who do things like buying them a condo when they start producing grand babies, eliminating their housing expense.

Some Millennials have high-paying, salaried jobs that eliminate their phone and transportation expenses as an additional perk. These are always the ones with a spouse, taking another high-paying or safe job with benefits that further reduce their household expenses, like a government job.

Many of the people who are not in these categories of expense-aided, crony-parent workers have to go into self-employment, where SS taxes are twice as high, but without advantages, like say money from a failed marriage due the generous divorce settlements for womb-productive parents.

I have seen multiple moms who financed businesses on the feminist business-financing option of a divorce settlement from a womb-productive, but failed, marriage. One of them had her employees, sitting in the floor doing crafts with her kids, rather than making cold calls to increase new-business accounts.

Many who lack the financial benefits of womb productivity have to borrow to go into business since the world of jobs is dominated by family-friendly crony parents, watching each other’s backs while taking tons of time off for kids, and armed with monthly welfare, child-tax-credit welfare or spousal income that makes it easy for employers to pay them less. Self employment becomes a necessity for non-crony non parents.

When you borrow to go into business, you have to cover all of the operating expenses and overhead, including storefront rent. You have to pay business loans and state fees, along with the twice-as-high SS taxes of self-employment, while covering all of your living expenses, too, with zero or negligible tax breaks. You get $0.00 of the government help with monthly bills that is given to the many citizens / noncitizens for sex and reproduction.

I was still able to live on it and pay the loan back, but without much to show for all the effort. Even when you make a profit every year, businesses have many expenses, with none of those expenses covered by unearned income from government to reward a choice in your personal life, unlike the layered, pay-per-birth rewards for the sex, reproduction and part-time employment crowd. The expenses in business often absorb most of the profit.

In reply to by wee-weed up

ScratInTheHat Skateboarder Sat, 03/03/2018 - 00:29 Permalink

I use a credit card for just about every transaction! And by use I mean use! I’d never charge a FN thing on that card that I didn’t have the ready cash to pay for it waiting to pay it off every month! That leaves my seeable cash setting drawing interest for a month while the card carries the debt. I don’t have to keep cash on me that can be stolen or worried with from day to day. It also provides a flow that is easy to use for the monthly budget. Cash you don’t want to be seen can be folded into this flow seamlessly and real assets extracted from it. It is the best of both worlds.

In reply to by Skateboarder

Rhetorical Skateboarder Sat, 03/03/2018 - 01:36 Permalink

I maxxed out 15k in credit card debt to buy crypto. Took out a 10k personal loan to buy some too. Holy fuck was it the best choice I ever made. 

Why pay off something that costs me a mere 1/3 of its total a year when I can make 100% in a month. Minimum payments for the next 5 years here I come. I look forward to my retirement by 2020. Life is great we're all gonna make it folks.


O and fuck you chase cancel them 2days after I tell you I used them to buy crypto I dont care that phone call was fun for the both of us don't lie.

In reply to by Skateboarder

el buitre Skateboarder Sat, 03/03/2018 - 09:13 Permalink

I had had a credit card about 10 years ago with Chase going back for 20 years previously.  I paid it off automatically with a Chase Checking account every month.  It was done by computer and never late.  One day I get a letter that my credit card was cancelled.  I called Chase up to ask why.  They told me that they didn't have to give me a reason, they could cancel at any time if they wished to.  I learned later that the banksters call people like me "dead beats," not become we default but because they don't make enough on fines and usury with us.  When I did a free credit check on myself later that year, Chase reported to the credit agency that my credit card had been cancelled "by customer request."  Lying scumbags.  Since then I have found a debit card with no overdraft provision to meet my needs fully.  I basically just use it to withdraw cash at an ATM.  The NSA doesn't know whether I wear briefs or boxers.  I have no idea what my credit "score" is and I couldn't care less.  Fuckem.

In reply to by Skateboarder

Red Raspberry el buitre Sat, 03/03/2018 - 09:30 Permalink

I have a couple long term credit cards.  But 50% of the cards I have are originally 0% interest for at least a year, this is now about 18 months.  I have canceled dozens of cards and have about a dozen active. 

I only carry a balance month to month on the 0% cards and then set up a scheduled to pay them off by the time the 0% offer ends and no longer charge to them.  During that time I apply for another 0% card.  When the paid off 0% card is done I cancel it.

Chase use to be very bad about cancelling cards.  But any more all it takes is a phone call or going through the web site.

In reply to by el buitre

AGuy el buitre Sat, 03/03/2018 - 12:56 Permalink

FWIW: I held a Chase CC for about 20 years (Still do). I always pay the balance on time, but they never canceled my card. They still make ~2% on all my purchases since they charge merchants 2% transactional fees. I do try to minimize my CC purchases, but in some cases its not possible to use cash.

Its possible that your name is similar to someone else that is a bad credit risk, and they canceled your card in mistake. CC companies monitor arrest reports, pending layoffs, divorces, etc. Perhaps your name or employer came up on one of their tracking systems. FWIW: My experience with Chase is better than other CC companies. My worse was Citibank that during the 2000 meltdown would deliberately sent my bills after the due date so they could collect fees. I don't use electronic banking, auto payments, since if they ever get hacked, it be very easy to drain your accounts dry. Use old fashion checks which minimize fraud/hacking (yes its not perfect, but it makes it harder. Hackers and fraudster will go for the easy victims -- You don't have to be faster than the lion, just faster than the guy running next to you)

"I have no idea what my credit "score" is and I couldn't care less. Fuckem."

Put a credit freeze at all three Credit Bureaus. If you don't have a credit freeze you can be a victim of identity theft. If you're not using credit, than there is no reason not to use a credit freeze -- Just trying to look out for another ZH brother!

In reply to by el buitre

shovelhead Skateboarder Sat, 03/03/2018 - 10:12 Permalink

 I'm glad my kid is smart about credit and it's pitfalls. He got a card to put $50-100 on each month for necessities that he pays off every month to build a credit rating and just bought a 3 yo Honda creampuff sub-compact w/25,000 miles on it that has all the bells and whistles he basically got for free and plans to pay off the small balance with 2-3 extra payments a month going to principle. All this is to aim for freeing up future income as his girlfriend completes her masters.

Then he plans to buy the crappiest house he can find in a good neighborhood and fix it up. This might be tough because the university town he lives in is pretty exclusive to begin with. I told him he, more or less, will be looking at former student housing rentals that will require extensive remodeling to make it non-Animal House friendly.

"Dont worry Pop, The first room I'll fix up will be your room so you can bring all your tools down and stay and help me."

Smart kid. He knows I can't resist this kind of stuff.

In reply to by Skateboarder

jaxville Skateboarder Sat, 03/03/2018 - 12:06 Permalink

  Think of all the things that you can't do without a credit card.  You can't rent a car, buy airline tickets or even book a room in a decent hotel without a credit card.

  I have a low balance card for internet purchases but I suspect those without a credit card can use alternative payment means.  Using a debit card too often entails risk that your account might get compromised.  I would rather have the CC compromised than my personal account. 

  Responsible use of a CC opens many doors that would otherwise not be through either irresponsible use or not having one.

In reply to by Skateboarder

Donald J. Trump J S Bach Sat, 03/03/2018 - 00:27 Permalink

I took the initiative to start my kids young with credit.  I made them a user on my Amex.  Taught them only use it if they had the cash to pay for it immediately and pay off the card in full every month.  At 18 they took out a small loan on their paid off cars.  They learned how to use credit, had golden credit ratings, and if they ever need a mortgage, business loan, whatever, they will be well prepared.  I still need to give them a lesson on compound interest.

In reply to by J S Bach

all-priced-in J S Bach Sat, 03/03/2018 - 09:16 Permalink

There is another choice -- it is not all or none -


My parents didn't have much extra money - they had a two credit cards -


One was a Sears card - the other I don't recall.


When the refrigerator crapped out and couldn't be fixed my mom used her Sears card to buy a new one - took her a year or so to pay it off.


The other credit card was only used in an emergency - like the time the alternator went out while we were on our way to visit my grandparents.


The key is if you can't pay off the balance - then only use them for emergencies.


In fact - teaching someone how to use credit responsibly is important - the reason so many get into trouble with credit is they were never taught about how to properly use it.



In reply to by J S Bach