The average American owes $2,900 in credit-card debt, and that includes one in five Americans who don’t own a credit card, according to a new survey. Among credit-card holders, the unpaid balance averages $3,815.

Just over half of all Americans have at least one credit card that they do not pay off fully each month, in effect using it as a short-term loan, according to a Gallup Poll released Friday.

The trend isn’t limited to the United States, however. Credit-card debt in the United Kingdom has risen by nearly two thirds over the past four years, according to the Independent.

The Advertiser in Adelaide, Australia, reported credit-card debt has reached record levels in South Australia, and that two thirds of Australian households have debts.

It’s a trend that could bode ill for churches.

Alban Institute founder Loren Mead recently told ministers in North Carolina that churches are in “bad trouble” financially, and the situation isn’t likely to improve.

Mead said churches are increasingly dependent on a donor base that is getting older and smaller, while younger adults are racking up more personal debt and giving less to the church, according to a report in the Biblical Recorder.

A Southern Baptist Convention funding study committee last year noted that church members are giving less to their congregations and churches in turn are giving less to missions. The study concluded that the denomination could face financial crisis within a few years if giving trends do not improve.

While many churches encourage members to give a tithe, or 10 percent of their pre-tax income, to their church, the actual percentage of giving among born-again evangelicals averages 3.8 percent, pollster George Barna said in a survey Tuesday.

Ministry experts increasingly view a lack of money-management skills, particularly among younger adults, as a growing problem for churches.

According to the Gallup Poll, 31 percent of Americans usually leave a balance on their credit card or cards each month, and 14 percent typically pay the minimum amount due or less. Thirty-seven percent said they always pay off their full credit-card debt, while 16 percent said they usually pay the full amount.

Credit-card debt averages about 8 percent of household income for all Americans, but it is over 10 percent among people earning less than $40,000 a year. For people earning less than $20,000 a year, credit-card debt is at 14 percent of annual income.

Seventeen percent of Americans said they are very worried or moderately worried about being able to make the minimum payments on their credit cards.

In general, people in higher income brackets tend to owe the most in credit-card debt, but there are exceptions. Households earning between $40,000 and $49,999 owed less than both those earning $30,000-$39,999 and those earning between $50,000 and $59,999 a year. The highest debt was among households earning at least $75,000 but less than $100,000. Those households owed an average $7,896. For households earning more than $100,000, the balance dropped to $2,944.

Thirty-eight percent of credit-card holders said they owe nothing, and 11 percent owe $500 or less. Twelve percent owe between $2,000 and $5,000, while 10 percent said they owe between $5,001 and $10,000. Eight percent owe more than $10,000 to credit cards.

The Gallup survey is based on telephone interviews with 1,014 adults from around the nation conducted April 5-8. The sample margin of error is 3 percent.

Bob Allen is managing editor of

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