The credit agency TransUnion released a short study in May of 2016 regarding generational differences in credit. The numbers they released were eye-opening in many regards. According to TransUnion, the average cardholder under the age of 52 is using close to 80% of their available credit!

Credit Utilization Ratio


TransUnion's study took a look at debt compared to available credit across generations to figure out how much credit people are using on average. As they put it: "While there are many differences in how each generation uses their credit, one things remains the same no matter your age: a majority of consumers are using more than 50% of their available credit."

The data:

  • Millennials: are using 79% of their available credit
  • Generation X: 77%
  • Baby Boomers: 65%
  • Silent Generation: 51%

For this study, TransUnion defined Millennials as those ages 18-36, Gen Xers as 37-51 year olds, Baby Boomers as those 52-70, and the Silent Generation as those 70 and older.

In the world of credit scoring, a consumer's credit utilization ratio is the amount they owe on their credit cards compared to their limits. So, for example, if a person with one credit card with a $1,000 limit had a balance of $200 on that card, their credit utilization ratio would be 20%.

Your credit utilization ratio is more important than you may think. In fact, it determines 30% of your FICO credit score (and is similarly considered with other scoring models), so it matters a lot.

Industry experts say that consumers should try to keep their credit utilization ratio under 30%, but the lower the better. Anything above 30% will cause your credit score to drop, yet TransUnion's data shows that the average credit card holder is way above that benchmark. And those that are 52 or younger have credit utilization ratios closer to 80%.

Those who are looking to improve their credit score would benefit from calculating their own credit utilization ratio. If yours is too high, you might want to get to work on paying down high balances because it has such a huge impact on your credit score.

Generational Differences in Credit

The TransUnion study also revealed that a large percentage of people under the age of 52 have subprime credit:

  • Millennials: 42.98% have subprime credit
  • Generation X: 33.28% have subprime credit

While there is no universal standard, a credit score is generally considered "subprime" after it dips below 600. TransUnion didn't define what range they consider to be subprime, but they did note that it is "the lowest credit tier possible."

When you consider the aforementioned poor credit utilization ratios Millennials and Gen Xers were found to have, it is not surprising to see that the people belonging to these two generations are the most likely to have subprime credit scores.


While we don't find it surprising that younger people are more prone to have less than stellar credit, it is eye-opening to see the staggering credit utilization ratios of all of the generations.

No matter what generation you belong to, if you want to improve your credit score, you are going to want to keep your utilization ratio under 30%. Other tips that apply across generations include making all of your payments on time and adding a variety of credit accounts to your borrowing portfolio organically over time.

A final tip: if you have bad credit and are looking to get approved for an auto loan, Auto Credit Express can help you get connected to a dealership in your area that can help. Our service is 100% free and we can help you no matter what shape your credit is in.

To get the process started, all you need to do it fill out our quick and secure online application. The sooner you apply, the sooner you could be driving off in your next car.