Twenty-seven-year-old Omaha, Nebraska, resident Erin Duffy has never had – or even wanted – a credit card.
“I’ve been able to get along without it,” she says, attributing the choice to ambivalence and a wariness of plastic her parents fostered in her during her formative years. “I’ve liked being able to pay for things as I go, not having to worry about missing a bill.”
Duffy’s decision to live without credit cards is more common than you may think. A whopping 63 percent of millennials (ages 18 to 29) don’t have a credit card, according to a survey commissioned by Bankrate and compiled by Princeton Survey Research Associates International.
Comparatively, only 35 percent of adults 30 and over don’t have credit cards.
There are, admittedly, external factors influencing the statistics. An April 2014 Gallup poll found Americans’ reliance on credit cards, in general, has declined steadily since the Great Recession. Moreover, the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, or CARD Act, made it harder for anyone under 21 to get a credit card.
There’s also a more straightforward reason why a majority of millennials aren’t carrying the payment method: Many, like Duffy, just don’t want credit cards.
“I don’t really feel like there’s a need for one in the way I live my life,” says Melissa Pileiro, a 24-year-old resident of Vineland, New Jersey. “The idea with a credit card is you’re essentially putting money down that you don’t have.”
Like many members of her demographic, Pileiro is perfectly content with her debit card, a payment method whose existence has eaten into the credit card’s market share.
Millennials “grew up in a world where the economy was tanking,” says David Pommerehn, senior counsel with the Consumer Bankers Association. “There was great concern about jobs and debts and paying off bills.”
At the same time, college costs – and subsequently student loans – have ballooned. According to the Project for Student Debt, student debt increased an average of 6 percent each year from 2008 to 2012, with college graduates from 2012 having an average student loan debt of $29,400.