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Debt.com » Research » Financial Regrets Survey

1 in 5 Americans Regret Charging Too Much on Their Credit Cards – and Many Feel Worse About It Now Than Last Year


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To support Financial Literacy Month, Debt.com surveyed more than 1,000 Americans on their biggest money regrets.

Roughly 78% have a financial regret, with 1 in 5 (21%) saying it’s “charging up too much credit card debt.” More than 1 in 4 (26%) have $15,000 to $30,000 in credit card debt – and 15% say they owe $30,000 to $50,000.

The regret haunts many on a regular basis.

Nearly half (49%) say their credit card debt regret is “always on their mind.”

And the regret gets worse with time for many. More than 1 in 3 (35%) who cite too much credit card debt as their biggest regret “feel worse about it now than they did this time last year.”

Key findings

  • More than 4 in 10 (45%) Millennials say they regret charging too much credit card debt. Not far behind is Gen X (32%) and Gen Z (14%). Baby Boomers (10%) are the least likely generation to cite credit card debt as their biggest financial regret.
  • Baby Boomers may not be the generation most concerned with their credit card debt, but they have the most of it. Nearly 1 in 4 (24%) of Baby Boomers have $30,000 to $50,000 in credit card debt. Slightly less (23%) Gen Xers also have $30,000 to $50,000 in credit card debt.
  • Gen X is most likely to “accept” and “ignore” their credit card debt. When asked “how does your credit card debt make you feel?” 67% agreed and strongly agreed with “acceptance.” Roughly 3 in 5 (64%) Gen X chose the response “I ignore it.”
  • The youngest generations are more concerned with their student loans. Roughly 1 in 5 (19%) Gen Z regret “taking on too much in student loan debt,” while 11% of Millennials say the same. That’s compared to 6% of Gen X and only 2% of Baby Boomers.
  • Gen X may not regret taking on student loan debt as much as younger generations, but they have more of it. Slightly more than 1 in 3 (35%) of Gen X took out $200,000 or more in student loans, while 30% say they took out between $100,000 and $200,000.
  • More than 30% of Gen Xers still owe $200,000 or more. Roughly 3 in 5 (61%) of Gen Xers have been paying that debt for seven to 10 years, while 17% say it’s been 11 to 15 years.
  • More than 1 in 3 (38%) Baby Boomers regret not saving for retirement sooner. One in four (25%) Baby Boomers have nothing saved for retirement.
  • Here may be one reason why: Boomers say they are most likely to have “never started saving for retirement.” More than 1 in 5 (22%) never put away money for their Golden Years, compared to 9% of Gen X, 12% of Millennials, and 11% of Gen Z.
1 out of 4 who "regret charging up credit cards" have $15,000 to $30,000 in credit card debt.
Half with too much credit card debt as their financial regret say it's always on their mind.
When asked how they feel about their credit card debt compared to last year, 35% said they "feel worse."
More than 4 in 10 Millennials say they regret charging too much credit card debt as their biggest financial regret.
Most Americans who regret "charging too much on their credit cards" live in the Middle Atlantic region of the U.S.
Full survey results
Do you have a financial regret?
Yes78%
No22%
Of the following choices, which is your biggest financial regret?
Not saving for retirement earlier18.99%
Charging too much debt on credit cards 21.01%
Taking on too much in student loan debt9.22%
Not saving enough money for emergency expenses19.35%
Not saving enough for my child’s education4.88%
Buying a home I couldn’t afford5.07%
Never buying a home (I’ve rented all my life)7.47%
Something else 14.01%
How many credit cards do you have?
19.65%
2-345.61%
4-535.09%
6+9.65%
How much credit card debt do you have?
$500-$5,00026.55%
$5,001-$15,00032.30%
$15,001-$30,00025.66%
$30,001-$50,00015.49%
How much do you currently have saved for retirement?
Nothing18.14%
$10,000-$20,00018.14%
$20,001-$50,00011.27%
$50,001-$100,00014.22%
$100,001-$250,00017.16%
$250,001-$500,00015.69%
$500,001-$1,000,0005.39%
What age did you start saving?
I never started13.66%
18-256.83%
26-3526.34%
36-4529.27%
46-5515.61%
56-657.32%
66-700.49%
70+0.49%
What age do you plan to retire?
In my 30s2.44%
In my 40s3.41%
In my 50s11.22%
Standard retirement age (around 62 to 67)64.39%
In my 70s 18.54%
How much did you take out in student loans?
$2,500-$5,0002.02%
$5,001-$25,00018.18%
$25,001-$50,00022.22%
$50,001-$100,00026.26%
$100,001-$200,00019.19%
$200,001+12.12%

How much do you still owe on your student loans?
$2,500-$5,0009.09%
$5,001-$25,00027.27%
$25,001-$50,00018.18%
$50,001-$100,00023.23%
$100,001-$200,00011.11%
$200,001+11.11%
How long have you been paying your student loan debt?
1-3 years20.20%
4-6 years25.25%
7-10 years37.37%
11-14 years9.09%
15 years or longer8.08%
If you could go back and do it again, would you have…
Skipped going to college altogether28.28%
Chosen a less expensive school20.20%
Asked more questions so I understood the loan system better and what I was getting into37.37%
Not sure 11.11%
None of the above3.03%
What type(s) of student loans did you take out?
Federal student loans56.57
Private student loans12.12%
A mix of federal and private student loans31.31%
Are you aware of 529 College Savings Plans or state-sponsored college funds?
Yes69.81%
No30.19%
What kept you from using a college savings fund?
I wasn’t sure how to sign up18.87%
I thought I didn’t make enough money to afford the monthly payments24.53%
I wasn’t sure if my child would want to continue their education after high school16.98%
I was counting on scholarship money if my child wanted to continue their education28.03%
I always felt if my child wanted to continue their education, they’d pay for it11.32%
How does your financial regret make you feel?Strongly disagreeDisagreeNeither agree nor disagreeAgreeStrongly agree
Anxiety7.34%7.43%14.96%40.80%29.46%
Hopelessness11.25%16.54%21.93%27.32%22.96%
Stress7.43%6.97%12.45%40.33%32.81%
Acceptance9.57%16.26%26.12%29.18%18.87%
I ignore it18.68%22.30%22.77%19.33%16.91%
Worry7.16%6.69%12.83%43.68%29.65%
Do you feel better or worse about this now than you did this time last year?
Better45.35%
Worse27.04%
Same 27.60%
How often do you think about your biggest financial regret?
It’s always on my mind38.29%
A few times each week28.81%
At least once a month13.75%
Several times a year when certain circumstances arise15.71%
Never – I ignore it3.25%

Methodology: Debt.com surveyed 1,000 Americans on what their biggest financial regrets are. People responded from all 50 states and Washington, DC, and were aged 18 and above. Responses were collected through SurveyMonkey. The survey was conducted on April 2, 2024.

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