Those who suffered most were the youngest. 

As the pandemic winds down, new research shows credit card debt didn’t reach record highs in the U.S. as finance experts originally predicted. But it turns out the most likely to survive COVID-19 were least immune to credit card debt.

By last July, more than 50 million Americans found themselves out of work due to government-ordered shutdowns. Today, a nationwide survey reveals most of them were in the early phase of their careers and had no choice but to take on credit card debt to make ends meet.

The survey of 1,000 Americans conducted by Florida Atlantic University’s Business and Economics Polling Initiative (FAU BEPI) – a polling institute that conducts surveys on business, economics, political and social issues to gauge attitudes and opinions at regional state and national levels – shows the majority of Americans made it through the pandemic without charging up large credit card bills. That’s with the exception of everyone under 39 years old. They got nailed.

Roughly 3 in 5 Millennials (ages 25-39) replied yes when asked, “Did the COVID-19 pandemic cause any income loss in your household?” That number shot up to 82 percent when members of Generation Z (ages 18-24) answered yes to that question. It seems the income loss led to credit card usage to survive.

Nearly 70 percent of Gen Z respondents said the pandemic, “caused them to take on more credit card debt than they otherwise would have.” That number dropped for Millennials, but not much: 46 percent answered yes when asked.

Nearly 6 in 10 of Gen Z respondents had to stop making payments on their credit cards. The same for 4 in 10 of Millennials who took the survey.

The data shows the finances of Gen Zers and Millennials were already fragile. More than 4 in 10 respondents ages 18 to 24 said, “they regularly carry a credit card balance month-to-month.”

“It’s devastating to hear the career path of our nation’s future began with a patch of thin ice. So many have already fallen into a dangerous place,” said Don Silvestri, president of Debt.com. “Millennials carry so much baggage leftover from the last economic downturn. It’s a shame to see the next generation now facing a similar dilemma. One can only hope as the economy recovers, our young workforce can find a lifeline and get back on stable ground.”

For more information on how younger workers took on more credit card debt during the pandemic, read the full Americans’ Views on Their Personal Finances Before and After COVID-19 Report and infographic focused on Millennials and Generation Z findings.

The pandemic caused most respondents to lose income

 

 

Generation Z and Millennials reported higher rates of income loss due to the pandemic

 

 

Most respondents say the pandemic didn’t cause them to take on more credit card debt

 

 

More Gen Z and Millennial respondents reported taking on credit card debt due to the pandemic

 

 

Not surprising, younger respondents always carry some kind of credit card debt month-to-month

 

 

Respondents living in the Northeast took on credit card debt more than the rest of the country

 

 

Most survey respondents said they carry up to $7,500 in credit card debt

 

 

Did the COVID-19 pandemic cause any income loss in your household? Yes No
Percentage of respondents 55.8% 44.2%
Did the COVID-19 pandemic cause any income loss in your household? By generation Yes No
Ages 18-24 81.8% 18.2%
Ages 25-39 64.5% 35.5%
Ages 40-54 53.1% 46.9%
Ages 55-74 39.5% 60.5%
Ages 75+ 55.6% 44.4%
Did the COVID-19 pandemic cause any income loss in your household? By Region Yes No
Northeast 61.7% 38.3%
Midwest 40.4% 59.6%
South 53.2% 46.8%
West 70.0% 30.0%
Did the COVID-19 pandemic cause you to take on more credit card debt that you otherwise have? Yes No
Percentage of respondents 39.1% 60.9%
Did the COVID-19 pandemic cause you to take on more credit card debt that you otherwise have? By Generation Yes No
Ages 18-24 69.2% 30.8%
Ages 25-39 46.2% 53.8%
Ages 40-54 44.4% 55.6%
Ages 55-74 23.3% 76.7%
Ages 75+ 15.6% 84.4%
Did the COVID-19 pandemic cause you to take on more credit card debt than you otherwise would have? By Region Yes No
Northeast 51.3% 48.7%
Midwest 28.4% 71.6%
South 37.0% 63.0%
West 42.4% 57.6%
How much credit card debt do you currently owe? Percentage of respondents
$0 31.2%
$1 to $7,500 38.8%
$8,000 to $25,000 18.9%
$30,000 to $50,000 8.8%
More than $50,000 2.3%
How much credit card debt do you currently owe? By Generation $0 $1 to $7,500 $8,000 to $25,000 $30,000 to $50,000 More than $50,000
Ages 18-24 23.3% 34.2% 26.7% 11.7% 4.2%
Ages 25-39 27.2% 38.2% 23.2% 9.6% 1.8%
Ages 40-54 26.2% 52.5% 16.0% 4.9% 0.4%
Ages 55-74 37.8% 39.5% 17.3% 2.7% 2.7%
Ages 75+ 44.4% 8.9% 8.9% 33.3% 4.4%
How much credit card debt do you currently owe? By Region $0 $1 to $7,500 $8,000 to $25,000 $30,000 to $50,000 More than $50,000
Northeast 29.8% 36.7% 15.4% 12.2% 5.9%
Midwest 41.4% 39.4% 14.6% 3.5% 1.0%
South 30.3% 39.9% 22.0% 7.9% 0.0%
West 25.3% 38.2% 19.8% 12.0% 4.6%
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, have you temporarily stopped making credit card payments? Yes No
Percentage of respondents 30.7% 69.3%
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, have you stopped temporarily making credit card payments? By Generation Yes No
Ages 18-24 57.0% 43.0%
Ages 25-39 39.2% 60.8%
Ages 40-54 21.0% 79.0%
Ages 55-74 17.3% 82.7%
Ages 75+ 40.0% 60.0%
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, have you stopped temporarily making credit card payments? By Region Yes No
Northeast 31.6% 68.4%
Midwest 19.7% 80.3%
South 29.1% 70.9%
West 42.9% 57.1%
Do you regularly carry credit card debt month-to-month? Percentage of respondents
Always 35.1%
More than once per year 17.0%
Once per year 11.6%
Almost never 11.2%
Never 25.1%
Do you regularly carry credit card debt month-to-month? By Generation Always More than once per year Once per year Almost never Never
Ages 18-24 45.0% 25.8% 19.2% 2.5% 7.5%
Ages 25-39 32.7% 19.9% 9.9% 11.0% 26.5%
Ages 40-54 33.9% 20.2% 7.0% 11.6% 27.3%
Ages 55-74 32.8% 10.1% 6.8% 17.2% 33.1%
Ages 75+ 40.7% 9.9% 34.1% 3.3% 12.1%
Do you regularly carry credit card debt month-to-month? By Region Always More than once per year Once per year Almost never Never
Northeast 41.0% 16.5% 7.4% 10.6% 24.5%
Midwest 28.3% 19.2% 9.1% 9.6% 33.8%
South 38.2% 14.8% 13.1% 12.9% 21.0%
West 29.8% 20.2% 14.7% 9.6% 25.7%

Methodology: Data was collected Oct. 1-20, 2021, from 1,022 Americans over the age of 18, using a mixed mode sample of online, cell phone and telephone participants. All respondents interviewed in this study were part of either a fully representative sample using mixed mode random stratified probabilistic sampling and a non-probability panel sample. The credibility interval for the sample is +/- 3.065% in 19 of 20 cases.