Credit Cards

Credit Card Confidence Index

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How are Americans feeling about their ability to pay off their credit card bills?

That’s what we track each month with LendingTree’s Credit Card Confidence Index — our exclusive monthly look at the mindset and payment habits of American credit cardholders.

How the Credit Card Confidence Index works

Each month, we ask cardholders the following:

  • On a scale of 1 (not at all confident) to 5 (very confident), how confident are you that you can pay the monthly statement balance on all of your credit cards in full this month?
  • How many times have you paid all of your monthly statement balances in full in the past six months?
  • How often do you expect to do it in the next six months?

Those who rate their confidence a 1 or 2 are deemed not confident, while those who say 4 or 5 are deemed confident. We also ask those who say they’re not confident exactly why they feel that way. We then present our findings, along with my analysis on trends I’ve seen in the numbers and how they fit in the general context of the economy as a whole, each month in the Credit Card Confidence Index.

Additional Reading: Should You Repay Your Credit Card Each Month?

The latest: Credit card confidence climbs again in April

Americans’ credit card confidence climbed for the second straight month in April, hitting its highest levels since October.

As we saw in March, increased confidence among women in their ability to pay their credit card bills in full this month pushed overall confidence levels higher.

Key findings

  • 71% of cardholders were confident in April, the third-highest percentage ever in the Confidence Index. That’s a 5-percentage-point jump from March and a 7-percentage-point jump from April 2020.
  • Women’s credit card confidence hit a record high with 68% saying they were confident in paying this month’s statement balance in full. Meanwhile, the gap between men’s and women’s confidence levels was the lowest on record.
  • Looking further ahead, a record 44% of cardholders said they expect to pay their card’s monthly statement balance in full in each of the next six months.

Confidence keeps climbing

More than 7 in 10 cardholders (71%) said they felt positive about paying this month’s monthly statement balance in full. That’s the third highest percentage we’ve seen since the Index began in September 2018.

It’s the third-straight April without a decrease in confidence. In April 2020, confidence held steady at 64%, even as the pandemic began to take hold. In April 2019, confidence rose 3 percentage points to 67% — a level that wouldn’t be reached again until June 2020.

However, the good news this month wasn’t just that more people were optimistic. We also saw the percentage of cardholders who said they’re not confident fall to 15%, equaling December 2020 for the lowest percentage on record (14% of respondents were neither confident nor not confident).

That rosy outlook isn’t just about this month either. When we asked about confidence in paying their credit card statement balances in full for the next six months, 44% of cardholders said they expect to do so every single month. That’s up 3 percentage points from March and is the highest percentage since we started asking the question in March 2019.

Gender gap keeps shrinking

More than 2 in 3 women (68%) said they were confident in being able to pay their card’s monthly statement balance in full this month. This is not only a 7-percentage-point increase from March, but it is also 4 percentage points higher than the previous high confidence level for women — reached in July 2020.

Men’s confidence went up, too, jumping from 71% to 75%, which is the highest since December 2020.

That 7-percentage-point gap between men and women’s confidence levels is still significant. However, it is the smallest gap that we’ve seen between the sexes in the history of the Index. In the previous 31 Indexes, only five had shown a confidence gender gap of fewer than 10 points and never one lower than 8 percentage points, which happened most recently in July 2020.

The bottom line

There’s no reason to expect cardholder confidence to fall sharply anytime soon.

The effects of the most recent economic impact payments — also known as stimulus checks — will linger for many Americans for at least a while longer. Plus, as more Americans become fully vaccinated, more businesses reopen and more people will find jobs. As the economy generally improves, there’s likely to be a sense of relief for many people just to be able to spend again like they did before the pandemic took hold.

The good news is that many Americans have unusually high cash reserves with which to pay off their post-vaccination splurges more easily. That cash has allowed many Americans to pay down debt over the past few months — leveraging things like balance transfer credit cards and low-interest personal loans — and should allow many Americans to continue to keep their debt relatively low despite the extra spending, at least for a while.

That won’t last forever, though. We’d expect debt to begin to rise later this year, possibly sending cardholder confidence levels down from their current heights.

But for now, cardholders are clearly feeling good about themselves, and that feeling is likely to last for a while.

Prior months

Methodology

LendingTree commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,013 credit cardholders from April 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.

For media inquiries about the Credit Card Confidence Index

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.