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Credit Card Confidence Index 12-Month Archive

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Want to talk to Matt about the latest Confidence Index numbers? Email him at [email protected]. You can also reach out via Twitter at @matthewschulz or Instagram at @matt.schulz.

Credit Card Confidence Index: A look at prior months

May 2022: Cardholder confidence ticks lower

Credit cardholder confidence dipped in May as Americans continue to wrestle with rising inflation.

While short-term confidence is down just 2 percentage points from April, it’s down 7 percentage points year over year. Longer-term confidence is also down slightly.

Key findings 

  • Short-term confidence dipped by 2 percentage points. 63% of Americans are confident they can pay the monthly statement balances on all their credit cards in full this month, down from 65% in April. However, the dip is far steeper compared to May 2021, when 70% of cardholders said they were confident.
  • Longer-term confidence dipped, too, but only by a percentage point. The longer-term look — which asks people how often they’ll pay their statement balances in full in the next six months — is at 50%, down from 51% in April. It’s down even further from 53% a year ago.
  • Inflation is playing an increasingly bigger role. Among those who say they expect to pay their credit card monthly statement balance in full in three or fewer of the next six months, 35% cite inflation. That’s up 5 percentage points from April and 8 percentage points from March.

Short-term, long-term confidence see slight monthly dips

Nearly two-thirds of credit cardholders (63%) say they expect to pay their credit cards’ monthly statement balances in full this month — that’s down from 65% in April. That small dip continues an up-and-down trend dating back to October 2021. Since then, every monthly decline has been followed by a monthly increase and then a decline and so on.

Looking further back, however, we see bigger differences. Today’s confidence level, while just slightly lower than the 64% average seen across the nearly four-year history of the Confidence Index, is 7 percentage points lower than a year ago. In May 2021, 70% of cardholders said they were confident — one of just four times cardholder confidence reached 70% or higher. (The all-time high was 74% in October 2020.)

Longer-term confidence – based on respondents’ expectations of how often they’ll pay their statement balances in full in the next six months – is down, too, though to a lesser degree. Half (50%) of respondents expect to pay their bill in full at least five times in the next six months — a percentage point lower than in April and 3 percentage points lower than in May 2021.

Historical data indicates we shouldn’t be surprised by these dips. Short-term confidence has fallen in May in three of the four years of the Confidence Index, while long-term confidence has done so twice, including the past two years.

Inflation plays a leading role

Not surprisingly, the rapid growth of inflation is having a significant effect on credit cardholders around the U.S. Among those who say they expect to pay their credit card monthly statement balances in full in three or fewer of the next six months, about one-third (35%) blame inflation.

This is the third month in which we’ve included that as an option in our survey. The percentage choosing it has risen each month — it began at 27% in March, rising to 30% in April and 35% this month.

Overall, it’s the second most common response among those not confident. The most common: the balance was just too large to pay in full, chosen by 43% of respondents.

The bottom line: Not expecting huge Confidence Index shifts in near future

Inflation is rampant. Interest rates are rising, and so is consumer debt.

Even with all that, Americans are generally feeling good about their ability to pay their bills. In many cases, they’re even thriving. New data from the Federal Reserve shows 68% of adults in October and November 2021 said they could cover a $400 emergency expense with cash, up from 50% in 2013. Now, a lot has happened since the end of 2021, and it’s likely that many Americans don’t feel quite as good about their financial situation as they did mere months ago. However, the data shows that many Americans came into the year feeling unusually good about their finances.

Knowing that, I don’t expect a huge change in consumers’ perspectives in the next couple of months. I believe we’ll see another small decrease in June as high inflation and rising interest rates take a bigger and bigger toll on consumers amid summer spending. However, given that we’ve seen confidence levels alternate between up and down each month since last fall, a minor increase wouldn’t come as a great shock.

Regardless of what happens, the best thing a cardholder can do is focus on paying down any card debt they may have:

  • Consider a 0% balance transfer credit card or a low-interest personal loan.
  • Think about asking your card issuer for a lower interest rate. (70% of people who ask get one, though far too few people ask.)
  • Consider contacting an accredited nonprofit credit counselor to help you manage your situation if your struggle is more dire.
  • Taking some sort of step is vital. Your credit card debt is only going to get more expensive in the coming weeks and months, so it’s up to you to take whatever steps you can to get it under control.

May 2022 methodology

LendingTree commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,559 credit cardholders from May 6-10, 2022. The survey was administered using a nonprobability-based sample, and quotas were used to ensure the sample base represented the overall population. All responses were reviewed by researchers for quality control.

April 2022: Cardholder confidence jumps

Credit cardholder confidence jumped in April, despite rising interest rates and surging inflation. It’s the fourth straight April without a decrease in confidence.

The most likely reason? Tax refunds.

Key findings

  • Short-term confidence jumps. 65% of cardholders said they were confident in paying their statement balances in full this month, a 4-percentage-point increase from March and the highest total since October 2021.
  • Longer-term confidence grew, too. 51% of cardholders expect to pay their cards’ statement balances in full in at least five of the next six months, also the highest percentage since October 2021.
  • Political views coloring cardholders’ confidence. 67% of Democrats were confident in paying their statement balances this month, versus 65% of Republicans. In the past 17 months, dating back to December 2020, Republicans have shown more short-term confidence just four times. In the 12 months before that, it happened 10 times.

Short-term confidence jumps

Inflation is at its highest level in decades and climbing. Credit card interest rates are rising and aren’t going to stop anytime soon. At the same time, credit cardholder confidence is also on the rise, hitting heights not seen since October.

We were surprised at first, too — that is, until we looked at our historical data from the four-year history of the Confidence Index. What we found is that short-term cardholder confidence just doesn’t fall in April. The onset of a pandemic couldn’t change that in 2020 — neither could inflation, rising interest rates nor anything else that we’ve faced in the past four years.

  • April 2022: Up 4 points to 65%
  • April 2021: Up 5 points to 71%
  • April 2020: Unchanged at 64%
  • April 2019: Up 3 points to 67%

So what’s happening? Tax refunds.

Most Americans get refunds, and they’re often the biggest windfall the average person gets during the year. That’s certainly true this year, as tax refunds are reportedly estimated to be up more than 10% higher than in the previous one. That extra bump helps give folks more of a financial cushion this time of year than what they’d normally face, and many Americans put that windfall to good use by increasing their savings or paying down credit card balances and other debts.

The confidence growth showed across many different demographic groups, though Generation X saw a bigger bump than most: 58% of Gen X cardholders were confident this month, up from 48% in March. That’s a 10-point jump, though Xers’ confidence level is still the lowest level of any age group.

Longer-term confidence grew, too

Looking over the next six months, cardholders’ confidence remains high. Just more than half of cardholders (51%) said they expect to pay their monthly statement balances in full in at least five of the next six months. That’s up 2 points from March and is also the highest number since October.

As with short-term confidence, this keeps with patterns we’ve seen in previous years — it’s the third straight April in which we’ve seen a month-to-month growth in confidence. (We did see a decline once — a 1-point drop in April 2019, which was just the second month in which we asked about long-term confidence.)

However, the growth in long-term confidence was just 2 points, half of the growth seen in short-term confidence. That could indicate that the arrival of the new tax refund is making people feel good about where things stand right now, but its impact could be short-lived.

Political views coloring cardholders’ confidence

By and large, cardholders are confident across the board, but there are definite disparities among different groups. For example, we’ve written a lot about the gender gap – how men are typically at least 10 points more likely than women to say they’re confident in paying their credit card bills in full. That’s been consistent through the nearly four years in which we’ve done the Confidence Index.

Not surprisingly, there’s also a significant gap depending on your political party preference. Right now, Democrats are somewhat more confident than Republicans when it comes to paying their credit card bills. However, that hasn’t always been the case: In fact, it completely flipped once it became clear that the party controlling the White House was going to change.

In the past 17 months dating back to December 2020 – the month after Election Day – Democrats have been more confident 11 times. Republicans have only been that way four times, and twice the confidence levels were equal.

In the 12 months before, from December 2019 through November 2020, Republicans were more confident 10 times, with Democrats being more so just twice.

The bottom line

I expect a slight decrease in confidence next month. The impact of the larger-than-usual tax refunds will likely continue to prop up confidence numbers for a few months, but it can only do so much. The grim reality is that life in 2022 is getting more and more expensive by the day, and things aren’t likely to get better anytime soon.

An extension of the student loan payment moratorium will help a great deal, but inflation isn’t expected to stop growing in the coming months and interest rates are almost certain to keep rising significantly throughout the year, making for a very difficult situation for folks who are carrying large credit card balances and other types of debt.

If you’re struggling with debt, now is the time to consider a new 0% balance transfer credit card. These cards can dramatically reduce the interest you pay over the lifetime of the balance and shorten the payoff period as well. If you have good credit, there are many of these cards available right now.

The problem is that as interest rates rise, it becomes more expensive for banks to offer these 0% card deals. It’s possible – maybe even likely – that we’ll see these deals become less common in coming months, or that the card offers become less appealing (think shorter 0% introductory periods and higher balance transfer fees). That’s why it is so important to act sooner rather than later.

April 2022 methodology

LendingTree commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,632 credit cardholders from April 4-8, 2022. The survey was administered using a nonprobability-based sample, and quotas were used to ensure the sample base represented the overall population. All responses were reviewed by researchers for quality control.

March 2022: Cardholder confidence dips

Credit cardholders felt less confident about paying their cards’ monthly statement balances in full in March than they have in any month since November, though confidence levels vary a great deal depending on your age.

Key findings

  • Short-term confidence falls: 61% of cardholders said they were confident that they could pay their statement balances in full this month, the lowest percentage since it was 58% in November 2021. Before that, the last time it was lower than 61% was in November 2019.
  • Longer-term confidence dipped as well, though not all the news is bad: Just 49% of cardholders expect to pay their cards’ statement balances in full in at least five of the next six months, the lowest percentage since November 2021. However, the percentage of cardholders who expect to pay in full in each of the next six months is rising, reaching levels not seen since October 2021.
  • Big disparity in short-term confidence by age: 72% of Gen Z cardholders said they were confident, while just 48% of Gen X said the same. Meanwhile, 37% of Gen X cardholders said they were not confident versus just 10% of Gen Z.

Short-term confidence falls

This is the first March in the history of the Index, which debuted in September 2018, in which we’ve seen short-term confidence fall.

In the three previous Marches, short-term confidence — the percentage of cardholders who said they are confident in paying their cards’ monthly statement balance in full this month — grew by an average of 3 percentage points. That includes a 6-percentage point jump in March 2019.

This month, however, things played out differently. Short-term confidence fell by 2 percentage points to 61%, the lowest percentage seen since November 2021. That’s well below the average for the previous 12 months (65%) and for the history of the Index (64%).

We’re also seeing more people saying they are not confident. 26% of cardholders said so, the highest percentage since November 2021. Before that, the last time that percentage was that high was September 2019.

Longer-term confidence dips, too, though not all the news is bad

Looking out further, just fewer than half of cardholders (49%) expect to pay their cards’ statement balances in full in at least five of the next six months — our primary measure of long-term confidence. That is the lowest percentage since November 2021 and marks the third time in the past five months that this number has fallen below 50%.

Still, overall, cardholders’ long-term confidence hasn’t taken as significant a hit as their short-term confidence. The 49% number is a bit lower than the average for the previous 12 months (51%), but it is higher than Index’s historical long-term average of 47%, which we began tracking in March 2019.

Plus, the number of cardholders saying they plan to pay their statement balance in full in every one of the next six months (42%) is actually the highest it has been since October 2021.

Big disparity in confidence by age

Over the years, we’ve talked a great deal about the gender gap when it comes to credit card confidence. Men tend to be at least 10 percentage points more likely to say they’re confident about paying their statement balances in full. That’s the case again this month:

  • Confident: Men (67%) versus women (54%)
  • Not confident: Men (20%) versus women (31%)

We also see significant differences based on the cardholder’s age. For example, in March, 72% of Gen Z cardholders expressed short-term confidence versus just 48% of those in Gen X. (Baby boomers and millennials are in between, at 65% and 64%, respectively.) That’s a significant gap.

Throughout the past year, an age gap has persisted, though it hasn’t typically been as large as the one we see this month — and we haven’t always seen Gen Z come out on top.

Here are the average short-term confidence levels by age group for the past 12 months, including March 2022:

  • Baby boomers: 69% confident
  • Gen Z: 68% confident
  • Millennials: 65% confident
  • Gen X: 58% confident

While baby boomers and Gen Z have each had their turns as the most confident age group, there’s been no such change at the bottom of the list. Gen X has been the least confident for 11 straight months, dating back to May 2021.

The bottom line

I expect cardholder confidence to continue to dip slightly in April. It would be the first April since the Index began in late 2018 to see a drop, but I think it will probably happen.

Why? Inflation is the biggest culprit. Everything is costing more, and that puts a strain on cardholders’ budgets. When that happens, people tend to lean on credit cards, and when people lean on credit cards more, it tends to get harder for them to pay their balances in full. Factor in higher interest rates and bigger spending as COVID-19 cases wane throughout the country, and the formula is there for lower cardholder confidence.

Tax refunds will help. So will rising wages and a continued halt to federal student loan payments. However, rapidly increasing overall costs seem to be setting the stage for a decrease in cardholder confidence in the next few months.

I don’t anticipate a huge collapse of confidence, barring an unexpected spike in COVID-19 cases or unemployment, but I do think confidence will tick lower.

The best move for those struggling with debt is to reduce your interest payments by getting a 0% balance transfer credit card or a low-interest personal loan. These tools can make a huge difference in the amount of interest you pay and the time it takes to pay down your balances.

March 2022 methodology

LendingTree commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,218 credit cardholders on March 10-15, 2022. The survey was administered using a nonprobability-based sample, and quotas were used to ensure the sample base represented the overall population. All responses were reviewed by researchers for quality control.

February 2022: Cardholder confidence up slightly

Credit cardholder confidence ticked higher in February — and if history is any indicator, that growth is likely to continue.

Key findings

  • Short-term confidence rises slightly: 63% of cardholders said they were confident in their ability to pay their cards’ monthly statement balance in full this month, up a percentage point from January.
  • Longer-term confidence edged higher, too: 50% of cardholders said they expect to pay their cards’ monthly statement balance in full in at least five of the next six months — that’s up from 49% in January.
  • Historical trend points to continued growth: Cardholder confidence has increased in March in all three years of the Confidence Index, rising by an average of 3 percentage points per year.

Cardholder confidence up slightly, both in the short and long term

Cardholders’ short-term and long-term confidence reached their highest levels since October. In February, both were up just a percentage point from January.

When looking at those who were very confident about this month’s bills (rating their confidence as a 5 out of 5), the growth was a bit more significant, as 49% of cardholders said they were very confident. That’s up 2 percentage points, marking the third straight monthly increase.

Meanwhile, only 17% were not at all confident (rating their confidence as a 1 out of 5), the lowest percentage since October.

Women’s confidence, in particular, has improved: The percentage of women saying they were not confident dropped for the third straight month, falling 3 percentage points to 27%.

However, when looking at the long term, the picture is a little murkier overall:

  • 41% of cardholders said they expect to pay their monthly statement balance in full in each of the next six months, up 2 percentage points — the highest total since October.
  • Just 16% of cardholders said they expect to do so in none of the next six months — that’s down 1 percentage point. The last time that number was lower was in September 2021.
  • However, 25% of cardholders expect to pay their monthly statement balances in full in just one or fewer of the next six months. That’s the second highest percentage in the last 18 months, behind only 27% in November 2021.

Historical trends point to continued growth

In the history of the Confidence Index, February has been an up-and-down month when it comes to cardholder’s short-term confidence:

  • 2019: Down 9 percentage points from 67% to 58%
  • 2020: Up 1 percentage point from 62% to 63%
  • 2021: Down 4 percentage points from 67% to 63%
  • 2022: Up 1 percentage point from 62% to 63%

The good news, however, is that the trends are far clearer for March. Cardholder confidence has grown from February to March in each of the past three years, rising an average of 3 percentage points per year.

  • 2019: Up 6 percentage points from 58% to 64%
  • 2020: Up 1 percentage point from 63% to 64%
  • 2021: Up 3 percentage points from 63% to 66%

That bodes well for cardholder confidence in the near future — though continued growth in confidence is anything but a sure thing.

The bottom line

The next few months will likely be a volatile time for credit cardholders.

Tax returns will give some a boost, while others will struggle to pay what they owe. Credit card interest rates are almost certain to rise in March due to pending Fed rate decisions, though it’s unclear by how much. Federal student loan payments may start coming due in May — or they might not. The omicron variant appears to be waning, but others might emerge. And those are just a few of the unknowns.

I believe that cardholder confidence will likely be up slightly again next month — but after that, it’s anyone’s guess.

The best thing for any cardholder to do is make sure they pay down their debt as soon as possible. Take advantage of 0% balance transfer credit cards that offer up to 21 months interest-free on transferred balances. And even if your credit standing won’t allow you to qualify for one of these cards, you still have options. Consider getting a low-interest personal loan, calling your card issuer to ask for a lower interest rate or reaching out to a reputable nonprofit credit counselor.

Any of these actions can be a great step in the right direction in the battle against credit card debt. The most important thing is to do something, even if it’s small. While we don’t fully know what the future holds, we do know that it’s likely that your credit card debt will only get more expensive this year — so now is a great time to act.

February 2022 methodology

LendingTree commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 9`4 credit cardholders, conducted Feb. 7-10, 2022. The survey was administered using a non-probability-based sample, and quotas were used to ensure the sample base represented the overall population. All responses were reviewed by researchers for quality control.

January 2022: Cardholder confidence stable to start 2022

Credit cardholder confidence was little changed in January, though it started the new year well below where it stood at the beginning of 2021.

Key findings

  • Short-term confidence down year over year: 62% of cardholders were confident in their ability to pay their credit cards’ monthly statement balance in full this month. That’s down only 1 percentage point from December, though it is 5 percentage points lower than January 2021.
  • Longer-term confidence largely unchanged: 49% of cardholders said they expect to pay their cards’ monthly statement balance in full in at least five of the next six months. That’s 1 percentage point lower than both last month and January 2021.
  • Gender gap remains strong: Women were 12 percentage points more likely than men to say they weren’t confident in their ability to pay their statement balances in full this month. That marks the third straight month with a double-digit gap, following a stretch of eight months in which it only happened twice.

Short-term confidence flat month to month but down year over year

The beginning of the new year didn’t do much to buoy cardholder confidence — 62% of cardholders said they were confident in January, compared to 63% who said so in December. On the flip side, 25% said they weren’t confident, up from 23% in the previous month.

However, when compared to January 2021, there’s a more significant change: Short-term confidence was 5 percentage points higher then at 67%, tied for the third highest percentage for all of 2021.

Historically, January has been a mixed bag for cardholder confidence. We saw significant changes in 2019 and 2021 and little to no change in 2020 and 2022.

Longer-term confidence largely unchanged

There was little movement in longer-term confidence, in comparison with both last month and to January 2021.

The percentage saying they expected to pay in full five or more times in the next six months fell from 50% to 49%, and the percentage saying they expected to pay in full one or fewer times in the next six months fell from 23% to 22%.

Compared with a year ago, little has changed:

  • Those who expect to pay in full 5 or more times: 49% in January 2022, versus 50% in January 2021
  • Those who expect to pay in full 1 or fewer times: 22% in January 2022, versus 21% in January 2021

Gender gap remains strong

Three in 10 women (30%) said they weren’t confident in their ability to pay their card statement balances in full this month, versus just 18% of men who said the same.

That’s a 12-percentage-point gap between men and women — and while that’s just a 3-point decrease from December, it is still significant.

It marks the third straight month in which that gap has been in double digits, including 15 percentage-point gaps in both November and December 2021. That’s a reversal from the previous eight months, in which that gap was 9 or fewer percentage points six times.

When looking at the longer term, this gap shrinks a bit. For example, 20% of women said they won’t pay their statement balance in full a single time in the next six months versus 15% of men — just a 5 percentage-point difference.

The bottom line

I expect cardholder confidence to remain little changed in February.

Sure, the holiday shopping season will be further in the rearview mirror, but inflation likely won’t be. As long as Americans are still battling with higher prices, it’s going to put a strain on their ability to pay their bills.

The view further into the year is cloudier.

The student loan payment moratorium was set to end in February, but has now been extended to May — and who knows if it will get extended further?

The Federal Reserve is also likely to raise interest rates multiple times in 2022, possibly starting as early as March. That means that credit card APRs will go up, too.

Then, of course, there’s the impossible-to-predict pandemic, as well as the 2022 midterm elections heating up.

Given all the uncertainty, the best thing for you to do is take action now to knock down your debt. Apply for a 0% balance transfer credit card or a low-interest personal loan, or ask your card issuer for a lower interest rate. You could also contact a credit counselor. There are plenty of helpful ways out there to do it.

What won’t help, however, is feeling overwhelmed and doing nothing. Take advantage of some of the options that are available to you and start whittling down that debt — you’ll be glad you did.

January 2022 methodology

LendingTree commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,657 credit cardholders from Jan. 11-14, 2022. The survey was administered using a nonprobability-based sample, and quotas were used to ensure the sample base represented the overall population. All responses were reviewed by researchers for quality control.

December 2021: Confidence rebounds but ends year lower than it began

Key findings

  • Short-term confidence bounces back, but remains down from the start of the year. 63% of cardholders said they were confident in their abilities to pay their cards’ monthly statement balance in full this month. That’s a 5 percentage point jump from November, but well below 67% in January 2021.
  • Longer-term confidence rebounds, too. Half of cardholders said they expect to pay their cards’ monthly statement balance in full in at least five of the next six months — that’s up 5 percentage points.
  • Uneven year ends on a high note. Short-term confidence rose for the second time in three months to end the year. However, confidence fell month to month more than it grew in 2021: It went down in six months, went up in five and was flat once. That’s a big change from 2020, which saw eight increases and just two down months.

Short-term confidence bounces back but remains below yearly average

For the third straight year, cardholders’ short-term confidence grew significantly in December.

  • December 2021: 63%, up from 58%
  • December 2020: 69%, up from 64%
  • December 2019: 62%, up from 58%

However, even with that 5 percentage point increase, cardholders’ confidence was below its average for the year (65.5%), and well below where it stood when the year began (67% in January 2021).

The last time — other than last month — that cardholders’ short-term confidence was lower than it is now was January 2020. That month it was at 62%.

Longer-term confidence rebounds, too

The news is a bit better when looking at the next six months.

As with short-term confidence, we saw an increase in long-term confidence for the third December in a row. Exactly half of cardholders said they expected to pay their credit cards’ monthly statement balances in full at least five times in the next six months.

That’s the third time in the past four months — and the 10th time in 2021 — that at least half of cardholders said so. That’s significant, as that 50% threshold had only been reached three times in 22 months prior to the start of 2021.

Still, the news isn’t all great: December’s number is still well below April’s peak of 56%, and just equal to January 2021.

Uneven year ends on a high note

Short-term cardholder confidence was all over the place in 2021.

After starting the year at 67% in January, confidence slid to 63% in December. It grew just five times — including two of the past three months — while dipping six times and ending unchanged once.

That’s a big change from 2020. Despite the onset of the pandemic, confidence rose from 62% in January 2020 to 69% in December. Short-term confidence rose eight times throughout the year and fell just twice.

The bottom line

While cardholder confidence has moved somewhat predictably in December in recent years, that hasn’t been the case in January:

  • January 2021: 67%, down from 69%
  • January 2020: 62%, unchanged from the previous month
  • January 2019: 67%, up from 61%

That inconsistency makes it tough to get a read on what will happen next month. However, my prediction is a small decrease in short-term confidence.

Blame it on inflation: Higher prices make it harder to stay within your budget, and when people’s budgets are busted, they tend to lean on their credit cards more than they’d like. Plus, there’s also the holiday spending hangover that happens in January.

Another major factor: Starting in February, payments on federal student loans will be required once again.

That’s a big deal — the absence of those monthly payments has made it far easier for people to either stash more money away or to pay down high-interest debt, like credit cards. Once those payments resume, it’s hard to imagine that they won’t have a significant impact on Americans’ abilities to pay the rest of their bills next month and into the future.

These are just a few reasons why people need to focus on paying down their credit card debt. Cardholders with good credit should consider applying for a 0% balance transfer credit card or a low-interest personal loan. Both of those can be great tools for consolidating and refinancing debts — even a small reduction in interest rates can have a significant impact on the amount you pay on your debt and how long it takes to pay it off.

You can also choose to call your credit card issuer and ask for a lower interest rate on your credit card. Around 80% of people who ask for one get one, according to a 2021 LendingTree survey, but far too few people ask. Now, they’re not going to reduce your APR to zero the way a balance transfer credit card might, but decreases of 5 to 10 percentage points do happen, and they can make a major difference.

Whatever you choose to do, the important thing is to take action of some kind. No one cares as much about your money as you do, so make sure that you take whatever steps are necessary to protect yours.

December 2021 methodology

LendingTree commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,620 credit cardholders from Dec. 9-13, 2021. The survey was administered using a nonprobability-based sample, and quotas were used to ensure the sample base represented the overall population. All responses were reviewed by researchers for quality control.

November 2021: Cardholder confidence sinks to 2-year low

Credit cardholder confidence sank in November to the lowest level seen in two years, spurred by a sharp drop among women cardholders.

Key findings

  • Short-term confidence plunged in November. Just 58% of cardholders said they were confident in their ability to pay their monthly statement balances in full this month — the lowest since November 2019. On the flip side, 28% said they were not confident — the highest since September 2019.
  • Longer-term confidence fell as well. The percentage of cardholders who expect to pay their monthly statement balances in full five times or more in the next six months dropped to 45% — the lowest since July 2020. Meanwhile, 27% of cardholders said they expect to pay in full once or fewer times in the next six months — the highest since November 2019.
  • Women’s short-term confidence matches record low. Just 48% of women were confident in paying their statement balances in full this month, tying the record low set in September 2019.

Short-term confidence plunged in November

November has proven to be a tough month for cardholder confidence, and 2021 is no exception.

  • November 2021: Down from 67% to 58%, the lowest total since November 2019. The 9-percentage-point decrease equals the second biggest month-to-month decrease in Confidence Index history
  • November 2020: Down from record high 74% to 64%. The 10-percentage-point decrease is the largest monthly decrease in Confidence Index history
  • November 2019: Down from 60% to 58%. The 2-percentage-point drop was small, but it was the last drop we would see until August 2020.

Cardholder confidence has jumped in November just once. In November 2018, the third month in the index’s existence, confidence shot up 8 percentage points from 56% (which is still the second-lowest percentage in Index history) to 64%.

Another reason for concern: The percentage of cardholders saying they’re not confident shot up 8 percentage points to 28%. That’s the highest percentage since September 2019 and the monthly increase equals the biggest ever, also set in September 2019.

Longer-term confidence fell as well

Cardholders’ concerns aren’t just about this month, though. However, these long-term concerns also follow the historical pattern that we’ve seen in short-term confidence.

This is the third-straight November in which we’ve seen:

  • A decrease in the percentage of those who say they’ll pay their monthly credit card statement balances in full at least five times in the next six months.
  • An increase in the percentage of those who say they’ll pay their monthly credit card statement balances in full one time or less in the next six months.

Still, while the direction of the movement may not be surprising, the size of the change is still significant.

  • 45% said they’d pay in full in at least five of the next six months. That’s down 8 percentage points from October, the biggest monthly drop since we began asking this question in March 2019.
  • 27% said they’d pay in full in just one or fewer of the next six months. That’s up 5 percentage points from October, the biggest monthly increase since November 2020.

Women’s short-term confidence dips to record low

November’s drop in confidence wasn’t exclusive to any one party, gender or other demographic segment. However, especially when it comes to short-term confidence, women saw the biggest declines.

Just 48% of women said they were confident in their ability to pay their cards’ monthly statement balance in full this month. That equals the lowest percentage in the Index’s history, set in September 2019, and marks just the third time ever that women’s confidence levels fell below 50%. (The only other time was in October 2018 when 49% of women said they were confident.)

In contrast, 68% of men said they were confident. That’s still a 5-percentage-point drop, but it leaves men’s confidence numbers at a far higher level than those of women.

At the other end of the confidence scale, the numbers are perhaps even more concerning. While 21% of men say they’re not confident, 36% of women said the same. Both of those numbers are the highest since September 2019, though there is clearly still a gulf in between men’s and women’s views.

  • Women are just 12 percentage points more likely to say they’re confident than to say they’re not confident (48% to 36%). That’s the second-smallest gap ever.
  • Men are 47 percentage points more likely to say they’re confident than to say they’re not (68% to 21%). That is the smallest gap since September 2019.

The bottom line

It’s pretty easy to understand why November would be a difficult month for credit card bills. Holiday shopping is in full swing. People are traveling to see friends and family for Thanksgiving and planning their Christmas travel. We’re throwing parties. We’re stocking up on cold-weather clothing. It all adds up. And those are just a few examples.

Then, when you factor in inflation and the desire among many to do the holidays a little bigger and better this year to make up for the crummy last two years, it is tempting to think that cardholder confidence may continue to fall.

I’m not betting on it.

In each of the last two years, a November dip was followed by a moderate December jump, and I’d expect the same this year.

There’s reason to be skeptical, though. Two years isn’t a huge sample size. Last November and December was an altogether weird period as the nation wrestled with a never-ending election cycle. And December 2018 actually saw a bit of a decrease. But I still expect December’s confidence numbers to come in a little higher than November’s. That’s in part because the extra cash cushion that many Americans still have from the past two years will help more people avoid going into debt this holiday season and keep those who do go into debt from going as far as they otherwise might.

There are also plenty of options available for those who want to tackle their credit card debt. While they were scarce in the pandemic’s early days, 0% balance transfer credit card offers are currently widely available, and come with interest-free periods up to 21 months. (Many cards also come with 0% interest on purchases. That can be helpful during the holiday shopping season.)

Low-interest personal loans can be helpful as well. Don’t expect to find 0% offers with these like you might with a credit card. However, if your credit is good, you might be able to find a personal loan with an APR below what’s offered by your current credit card.

The most important thing is to take some sort of action. No one cares as much about your money as you do, so it is up to you to take the steps necessary to protect it and improve your own situation.

November 2020 methodology

LendingTree commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,483 credit cardholders from Nov. 3-5, 2021. The survey was administered using a nonprobability-based sample, and quotas were used to ensure the sample base represented the overall population. All responses were reviewed by researchers for quality control.

October 2021: Cardholder confidence ticks higher, though longer-term view is murky

Credit cardholders’ short-term confidence improved in October, according to a new report from LendingTree.

However, when looking out over the next six months, the picture looks different. We see a growing divide in America, one in which cardholders are either feeling highly confident in their ability to pay their monthly credit card statement balance or not confident at all, with fewer people in-between.

Key findings 

  • Cardholders’ short-term confidence improved in October, inching up from 65% in September to 67% in October, its highest point since May.
  • Longer-term confidence numbers move toward the extremes. The percentage of cardholders who say they’ll pay their credit card’s monthly statement balance in full in at least five of the next six months is rising. However, so is the percentage who say they’ll pay in full just once or less during that period.

Short-term confidence ticks higher

The percentage of cardholders who said they were confident in their ability to pay their credit card’s monthly statement balance in full this month rose 2 percentage points to 67% in October. Though small, that is the first increase since July and only the second since April.

It remains well below last October’s levels, however. In October 2020 — the month before the U.S. presidential election — confidence levels hit a record high of 74%. In the following month, though, confidence plunged by 10 percentage points to 64%. Short-term confidence hasn’t gone above 71% since and has reached 70% or higher only twice (71% in April 2021, 70% in May 2021).

Meanwhile, 20% of cardholders said they were not confident in paying their statement balances in full this month — that’s down a single percentage point from September to its lowest level since July.

Longer-term confidence numbers move toward the extremes

We also ask cardholders how they feel about their ability to pay in full in the coming six months. In October, those views tended toward the extremes:

  • 53% expect to pay in full in at least five of the next six months, equaling the highest percentage since April. (That includes 45% who expect to pay in full in all six months, the highest percentage since we began tracking in March 2019.)
  • 22% expect to pay in full once or less in the next six months, matching the highest percentage since November 2020. (That includes 16% who say they won’t pay in full a single time in the next six months, also the highest since November 2020.)

In short, more people expect to pay their balances in full almost every month, while at the same time, there’s an increase in people who say they will almost never pay their balances in full.

Much has been written about how the pandemic has affected different groups of Americans in completely different ways. Some consumers are flush with cash, having reduced spending and paid down debt during the pandemic. Others, however, have been financially devastated by health issues and job losses, and are worrying if they’ll ever recover.

This unusual split in long-term cardholder confidence likely springs, at least to some degree, from that divide.

The bottom line

Though the pandemic has made everything more difficult to predict, I expect to see cardholder confidence decline next month, in part because that’s what we’ve seen in the two previous Novembers.

We’ve seen it in terms of both short- and long-term confidence, and there’s plenty of reason to believe that we’ll see it again, as illustrated below:

  • October 2020: 74% short-term confidence, 50% long-term confidence
  • November 2020: 64% short-term confidence, 46% long-term confidence
  • October 2019: 60% short-term confidence, 45% long-term confidence
  • November 2019: 58% short-term confidence, 39% long-term confidence

Last year’s drop was unusually huge, likely driven by the chaos surrounding the U.S. presidential election. However, we did see a drop during that time in the previous year, too.

Of course, two years of data is hardly a giant sample size, and three years ago, we actually saw an increase in short-term confidence from October to November. So a decrease is hardly guaranteed, but I think it will happen.

The primary reason? Holiday shopping.

People are shopping earlier this year, allowing more time for delivery as supply-chain issues continue to wreak havoc with retailers. Plus, many Americans will choose to overdo this holiday season a bit to make up for how crummy the past two years have been. Add in inflation, “buy now, pay later” loans and just general pressure to spend, and it is likely that lots of Americans will burn through the extra cash they’ve saved in the past 18 months and spend themselves into a bit of debt. Lower confidence likely then follows.

If you do find yourself in debt, a 0% balance-transfer credit card can work wonders. You’ll likely need at least a decent credit score to qualify for one — but if you do have it, you can move your other balances to the new card and not pay any interest on that balance for a year or more. (Some cards can even go as long as 21 months, just shy of two full years.)

It may seem counterintuitive to tackle credit card debt by getting a new credit card, and it is true that if used unwisely, these cards can just make your debt problem worse. However, if you play by the rules and use these cards sensibly, they can be a powerful tool to use in attacking credit card debt.

October 2021 methodology

LendingTree commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,455 credit cardholders from Oct. 15-20, 2021. The survey was administered using a nonprobability-based sample, and quotas were used to ensure the sample base represented the overall population. All responses were reviewed by researchers for quality control.

September 2021: Cardholder confidence stays strong

Credit cardholders’ confidence in paying this month’s credit card statement balance stayed strong in September, according to the Credit Card Confidence Index.

Nearly two-thirds of cardholders say they’re confident that they’ll be able to pay their credit cards’ monthly statement balance in full this month. However, when taking a longer-term view, that confidence looks a bit shakier.

Key findings

  • Short-term confidence was unchanged in September. 65% of cardholders say they’re confident in paying this month’s balances in full, while 21% say they’re not.
  • The gender gap continued to expand, though. 73% of men were confident, versus 57% of women. That’s the largest gap since February and the fourth time it has grown in the past five months.
  • Mixed signals in long-term confidence. More cardholders say they expect to pay their statement balances in full in all of the next six months. However, more also say they expect to pay in full in none of the next six months.

Short-term confidence unchanged

Cardholders’ confidence has been remarkably stable lately. For the third time in four months, 65% of cardholders expressed confidence in paying this month’s bills. (In July, it ticked up to 66% before dipping back to 65% in August.)

This period follows a volatile stretch from October 2020 to June 2021, in which confidence peaked at 74% and went as low as 63%.

While the percentage of cardholders expressing confidence has been stable, the percentage of those saying they’re not confident has been less so.

This month, 21% of cardholders say that they were not confident, which is unchanged from August. The percentage spiked to 23% in June — the highest level seen in nearly a year — then dipped back down to 16% in July before rising to its current level in August.

Gender gap expands

While overall confidence levels have stayed unchanged, a deeper look shows some major shifts in terms of gender.

Nearly three-fourths of male cardholders (73%) say they were confident in September, while just 57% of women say the same.

That’s the highest percentage since May for men and the lowest since February for women. Add it all up and it gives you a 16-percentage-point gap, the highest level since February.

Mixed signals in long-term confidence

When consumers look out over the next six months, things get murkier.

For example, 43% of cardholders say they expect to pay their cards’ monthly statement balance in full in all six of the next six months — that’s the highest since May.

However, 15% say they expect to pay in full in zero of the next six months, equalling the highest percentage since November.

As you move in from the extremes, though, more negatives emerge.

For example, the percentage of cardholders who expect to pay in full in more than half of the next six months (meaning at least four times) is 59%, which equals the lowest since November 2020.

The good news, however, is that 59% is still above the average percentage (57%) since we began tracking this number in March 2019.

The bottom line

I don’t expect this stability to last much longer.

In two of the past three years, we’ve seen short-term cardholder confidence rise between September and the end of the year. (The only exception: 2020, which proved more volatile than usual, thanks in large part to the presidential election.)

My gut tells me that confidence will likely dip between now and the end of the year, though. Yes, rising COVID-19 cases have slowed spending and forced people to dial back travel plans and other activities, allowing them perhaps to save a bit more like they did earlier in the pandemic. However, I think that the costs of the holiday season, combined with inflation and some other factors, will eat into cardholder confidence and help it inch lower.

There’s no reason to think that confidence will fall in a big way, though, and it is certainly possible that things end up moving in a positive direction instead. That’s especially true if we begin to see a significant decrease in COVID-19 cases around the country. Then, all bets are off.

Still, I feel a slight dip in confidence is most likely occurring over the next few months.

September 2021 methodology

LendingTree commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,519 credit cardholders from September 14-21, 2021. The survey was administered using a non-probability-based sample, and quotas were used to ensure the sample base represented the overall population. All responses were reviewed by researchers for quality control.

August 2021: Credit cardholder confidence sees 3rd drop in 4 months

Credit card confidence dipped in August, marking the third decrease in the past four months.

Confidence is down slightly both in the short term and the longer term, with men more likely than women to express confidence in their ability to pay their cards’ monthly statement balance in full.

Key findings 

  • Credit card confidence dipped slightly in August. The percentage saying they’re confident in paying their credit card’s monthly statement balance in full this month matched the lowest level since February. Meanwhile, the percentage of cardholders saying they were not confident was the second highest since August 2020.
  • Longer-term confidence is falling, too. The percentage of cardholders expecting to pay their monthly statement balances in full in at least five of the next six months fell to its lowest level since November 2020.
  • Coronavirus delta variant impact. The number of cardholders saying they’re spending less on shopping, travel and dining out because of the pandemic hit its highest level since we started tracking in September 2020.
  • The gender gap has widened. For the second time in three months, men were at least 10 percentage points more likely than women to say they were confident about paying their card balances in full.

Credit card confidence continues downward trend

Credit cardholder confidence fell by only a percentage point in August, but it still marked the third time in four months that confidence had fallen.

65% of cardholders said they were confident in their ability to pay their credit cards’ monthly statement balance in full this month. That matches June’s percentage for the lowest since February.

On the flip side, 21% of people said they were not confident this month. (15% said they were neither confident nor not confident.) That’s the second highest percentage of non-confident cardholders since August 2020, topped only by June 2021’s 23%.

Both the 65% and 21% numbers are within a percentage point of the Index’s average for the past three years. However, they both represent significant changes from just a few months ago. In April, for example, 71% of cardholders said they were confident, while just 15% said they were not.

Women drove much of the decline. The percentage of confident women fell from 62% to 59% in August while confident men rose slightly, from 69% to 71%. This month’s pool of respondents skewed slightly more female than male. That 12-point gap (71% vs. 59%) is the largest between the genders since February.

In the three-year history of the Confidence Index, cardholder confidence has always fallen in August, and this month is no exception. In 2020, confidence fell 3 percentage points in August, the first drop in eight months.

Longer-term confidence is falling, too

Cardholders don’t just feel shaky about this month.

The percentage of cardholders expecting to pay their monthly statement balances in full in at least five of the next six months fell 4 percentage points to 48%. That marks its lowest level since November 2020.

It is the third time in the past four months that that number has fallen. During that time, the percentage fell from 56% in April 2021 — the highest since we began tracking in March 2019 – to 48%.

Also, the percentage who expect to pay in full in one or fewer of the next six months rose, from 18% in July to 21% in August, the highest percentage since March.

COVID variants having an impact

Our monthly survey includes a follow-up question asking why respondents rated themselves at their confidence level that month. We provided several options, along with the ability to include their own reason.

For confident cardholders, the most popular answers are typically that they usually don’t carry a balance, they only charge when they have enough cash or savings to cover the purchases or that they don’t have any major purchases looming on the horizon.

Among non-confident cardholders, common answers include: my balance is simply too big to pay in full, I’m trying to save while also paying down debt, or I don’t make enough income so I have to charge more.

We also asked both confident and unconfident cardholders about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic as well, and the numbers were eye-opening in August.

Nearly 1 in 5 (19%) of confident cardholders said one reason they felt that way was that they were spending less on travel, shopping and dining out because of COVID. That is the highest percentage we’ve seen since we began asking that question in August 2020.

Among non-confident cardholders, 11% said rising COVID cases were among the reasons for their lack of confidence. That’s the highest since we began tracking that answer in January 2021. It’s also a significant jump from just 4% in June.

Those numbers clearly show that the rise of the Delta variant and growth in COVID cases overall is having an impact on cardholders today, though that impact can be different for different people.

The bottom line

Predicting what’s next for cardholder confidence is challenging, as COVID numbers continue to rebound.

Whatever happens, though, the best thing you can do is protect yourself.

Knock down that high-interest debt while you can.

Use a zero-interest balance transfer credit card or a low-interest personal loan to refinance and consolidate your debt.

Call your lender to ask for a lower interest rate. (Your chances of success are better than you realize.)

Keep building that emergency fund – and then build it some more.

This stuff matters, and the best time to do these things is right now.

The more you do to take care of your financial health today – along with your physical, emotional and spiritual health – the better off you’ll be when things take a turn for the worse in the future.

August 2021 methodology

LendingTree commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,282 credit cardholders from August 11-23, 2021. The survey was administered using a non-probability-based sample, and quotas were used to ensure the sample base represented the overall population. All responses were reviewed by researchers for quality control.

July 2021: Consumer credit card confidence ticks higher

Overall credit card confidence rose slightly in July, the first increase since April.

However, a deeper look at the numbers shows that the intensity of that confidence has waned significantly in recent months, raising the possibility that consumer sentiment may begin falling again sooner rather than later.

Key findings 

  • Two-thirds of cardholders were confident in paying their bills in full in July, but the percentage saying they were “very confident” plunged to its lowest level since February 2020. 43% of cardholders said they were “very confident,” while 23% said they were “somewhat confident.”
  • Just 16% said they weren’t confident, matching the second-lowest percentage in the index’s nearly 3-year-history. That includes 12% who said they were “not at all” confident, also the second-lowest percentage ever.
  • Longer-term confidence remains stable, with 52% of cardholders saying they expect to pay their credit card’s monthly statement balance in full in at least five of the next six months. That’s the seventh straight month in which that percentage has been at or above 50%.

Confidence high but shaky?

Each month, we ask folks to rate their credit card bill-paying confidence from 1 to 5, with 1 being the lowest and 5 the highest. For much of the history of the index, which began in September 2018, respondents have tended toward the extreme. Up to and including this June, an average of 63% of respondents have either rated their confidence a 1 or a 5, with the rest falling somewhere in between.

Things changed in July, however: Just 55% rated their confidence either a 1 or a 5. That’s the lowest percentage on record, and just the eighth time in three years that that percentage fell below 60%.

While it is good news that fewer people are rating their confidence a 1, a drop in the percentage rating their confidence a 5 is not a positive development. Just 43% of cardholders rated their confidence a 5 in July, the lowest level since February 2020.

Meanwhile, 23% of cardholders rated their confidence a 4 out of 5, which equates to being somewhat confident. That matches the highest number ever, equaling December 2020 and July 2020.

The trillion-dollar question is: Will those cardholders continue to see their confidence wane as the economy continues to open up and spending begins to normalize? Or might this be a brief blip?

If history is a guide, it might be the latter. The last two times we saw similar dips in confidence numbers, they rebounded in the following month:

  • July 2020: 46% very confident, 23% somewhat confident
  • August 2020: 52% very confident, 14% somewhat confident
  • December 2020: 46% very confident, 23% somewhat confident
  • January 2021: 50% very confident, 17% somewhat confident

Longer-term confidence remains stable

When it comes to looking out over the next six months, consumers’ views have been far less volatile than their short-term perspective.

With the exception of a brief spike in April, the percentage of cardholders who say they expect to pay their credit card’s monthly statement balance in full in at least five of the next six months has moved very little since December. That’s likely a positive sign for consumer credit card confidence.

And those good feelings seem likely to continue for at least a few more months, spurred in part by the distribution of monthly child tax credit payments that began in July. This money will likely help people feel better about paying their bills through the end of the year.

The bottom line

Credit card debt will grow again sometime soon, and with it, credit cardholder confidence will almost certainly fall, at least a bit.

The question is when, exactly, will that happen? My guess is it’ll be sometime in 2022 — I tend to believe the data that this dip in confidence is a brief blip, like the ones mentioned previously.

For the rest of 2021, American cardholders will be bolstered by child tax credit payments, a recovering job market and a significant, though dwindling, cushion of cash left over from the shutdown days of the pandemic. That can be enough to keep cardholders feeling good about their financial situation, even as they begin to spend and travel again like it is 2019.

A lot could change that, however. The spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19 could spur a return to wider lockdowns and closures. An end to the moratorium on federal student loan payments could send household budgets crashing back to reality. Post-vaccination spending could prove far larger and more widespread than expected, wiping out people’s savings in a big hurry and thrusting them back into the debt cycle sooner than expected. All those things could send all that confidence spiraling down quickly.

Still, Americans have been remarkably resilient during the past few years. While there are plenty of dangers lurking out there that could threaten their confidence, I’d bet that consumers will continue to feel good about paying off their credit card bills — at least for a while longer.

As always, your best move is to knock down credit card and other high-interest debt. The good news is that lending is slowly returning to pre-pandemic levels — with offers for zero-interest balance transfer credit cards and low-interest personal loans are as accessible as they’ve been since the pandemic began — so you have options, especially if you have good credit.

July 2021 methodology

LendingTree commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 713 credit cardholders from July 9-16, 2021. The survey was administered using a non-probability-based sample, and quotas were used to ensure the sample base represented the overall population. All responses were reviewed by researchers for quality control.

June 2021: Credit card confidence sinks to lowest level

Credit card confidence fell for the second straight month, dipping to its lowest levels since February.

This month’s Confidence Index showed a resurgence in the gender gap that has been present since the Index’s creation nearly three years ago but had waned significantly lately.

Perhaps most troubling of all, the percentage of those saying they were not at all confident — meaning they rated their confidence in paying their credit card’s monthly statement balance in full this month a 1 out of 5 — hit its highest level since last summer.

The news isn’t all bad, though. The survey still shows that nearly two-thirds of cardholders feel good about paying their monthly statement balance in full this month. While we wish that number were higher, the fact the percentage is that high coming out of one of the rockiest economic periods in American history is significant.

Key findings 

  • Confidence hits lowest level since February. Sixty-five percent of cardholders said they were confident in their ability to pay their credit card’s monthly statement balance in full this month, a 5-percentage point drop from May. Meanwhile, 23% said they were “not confident” – the highest number since August of 2020.
  • The gender gap makes a comeback. Women were 13 percentage points more likely than men to say they were not confident about paying their card balances in full this month, tying the highest percentage seen since October 2020.
  • Long-term confidence remains high. The percentage of cardholders who expect to pay their monthly credit card statements in full in at least five of the next six months dipped for the second straight month, but it remained above 50% for the sixth straight month — and the 8th time in the previous 10 months.

A return to pre-pandemic patterns?

Until recently, consecutive months of a decline in confidence have been relatively rare in the nearly three-year history of the Confidence Index. We saw declines in May and June not long after seeing them in January and February. Prior to that, it had only happened one other time – a five-month stretch of declines from May through September 2019.

During that five-month period, confidence fell from 67% to an Index-record low of 53%.

Confidence climbed throughout most of the pandemic as extended unemployment benefits and economic impact payments combined with lockdowns and reduced spending kept many Americans more flush with cash than normal. Confidence peaked in October at 74% and has been up and down inconsistently ever since.

The month’s drop leaves credit cardholder confidence just slightly above levels seen in March 2020, when the pandemic really took hold of the world economy.

The question is whether these back-to-back declines are a return to the summer doldrums that we saw in 2019. It bears watching in the coming months.

Gender gap re-emerges

In every month we’ve reported on the Confidence Index, men have been significantly more likely than women to say they were confident in paying their credit card bills, while women have always been much more likely to say they were not confident.

The good news is that the gap had gotten smaller in recent months.

In June, however, things took a step back.

Women were 13 percentage points more likely than men to say they were not confident, rating their level as a 1 or 2 out of a possible 5. That’s the widest margin since January. Men were 11 percentage points more likely than women to say they were confident, meaning they said their confidence level rated a 4 or 5 out of 5. That’s the biggest gap since February.

A closer look at the numbers shows that men and women are nearly equally as likely to rate their confidence level as a 5 out of a possible 5 (49% of women said so, compared with 47% of men). However, men were twice as likely as women to rate their confidence as a 4 out of 5 – still confident but not extremely so (24% of men said this versus just 11% of women.) That 11% is a 9-percentage-point decline from the previous month and the lowest percentage since October 2018.

It is only the second time in the Index’s history (the other was in July 2020) that more women than men rated their confidence as a 5 out of 5. However, that doesn’t tell the full story. Our report isn’t just about those who feel very confident. Those who feel somewhat confident matter, too, and if women’s numbers in that area keep dropping, the gender gap will likely widen.

The bottom line

It is likely that credit card confidence might continue to wane a bit, at least in the short term, as businesses continue to reopen, people start spending more, the effect of the most recent government stimulus check fades into memory and life returns to normal,

The summer can be an expensive time anyway, with kids out of school and the travel season well underway, so that will likely contribute to reduced confidence, too. That cash that so many Americans squirreled away during the pandemic will only last so long before people start falling back into old habits, including running up credit card debt.

One great unknown factor in all of this is the impact of the child tax credit monthly payments that will begin to be distributed in July. Those payments will be a big deal for many Americans, helping them extend their budget to the point where they may not need to lean on credit cards as much to help make ends meet. It could even allow many to continue paying the debts they had whittled down with previous government economic impact efforts. However, the payments may take some time to have a real impact on cardholders’ confidence.

The best move for those struggling with debt is still to take whatever steps necessary to keep reducing their balances. Apply for a 0% interest balance transfer card or a low-interest personal loan. Consider working with a credit counselor. Pick up the phone and ask your card issuer to lower your card’s interest rate or waive an annual fee.

Debt is awful, but it is important to understand you have options and that even taking a few small steps can add up to something big over time.

June 2021 methodology

We commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 779 credit cardholders, with the sample base proportioned to represent the overall population. The survey was fielded June 14-16, 2021.