How Much Do People Pay in Interest Over a Lifetime?

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Shocked man reading letter
Rainer Fuhrmann /

Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on Self.

We previously worked out how much tax you’ll pay in your lifetime, and it was shocking. But, we wanted to take this analysis further. What other hidden costs do we not consider in our lives?

Our credit card debts, car finances, mortgages, and even student loans will all slowly but surely grow interest fees over time.

We wanted to find out what this looks like for the average American and how it differs across the country to ultimately find out how much we are paying in interest fees over our entire life.

Key statistics

Woman with a lot of credit card debt
P Stock /
  • The average American will pay $130,462 in interest fees over their lifetime on mortgages, student loans, auto loans, and credit card debts.
  • The state worst hit by interest fees is Hawaii ($272,326), followed by California ($234,337).
  • The state that spends the least on interest payments is Iowa ($93,416), just over a third of what Hawaiians pay.
  • Car buyers in Texas will pay the most in interest ($22,475) on their auto loans, with Massachusetts drivers paying less than a third ($7,183) of what Texans do.
  • Alaskans will pay $7,517 in credit card interest fees, the highest of any state, while Iowans will pay $3,214, the lowest in the country.

Lifetime interest payments by credit score range

Burlingham /

We also wanted to find out how much more would be paid for those in differing credit score brackets.

For this, we looked at mortgages, auto and credit card loans, but not student loans. This is because the majority (92%) of student loans are federal loans, and therefore are not affected by credit scores.

With that in mind, the following is how lifetime interest differs depending on credit score.

Mortgage interest payments by credit score

expensive housing /

Those with the best credit scores will be paying about a fifth as much as those in the subprime category.

A conventional loan would require you to have a minimum credit score of 620.

Special subprime mortgages are available for those below that threshold, but, as the chart shows, the interest rate is astronomical in comparison.

Credit Score | Interest Rate | Lifetime Interest Payments
< 620 10% $486,040
620-639 3.932% $158,512
640-659 3.386% $133,828
660-679 2.956% $114,803
680-699 2.742% $105,291
700-759 2.565% $98,045
760-850 2.343% $88,388

Auto loan interest payments by credit score

vehicle expenses

Using interest rates dictated by the following credit score ranges, we can see that those with “Super Prime” credit at the top-end (781+) would pay $72,978 less than those who have “Deep Subprime” credit.

It should be noted that it is unlikely for someone to stay consistently within “Deep Subprime” if, for example, they were consistently paying off car loans over their lifetime. This analysis presumes no change for the sake of comparison.

If using the average credit score per state, the national average auto loan interest rate sits at around 4.66% interest for auto loans, showing how much more money you could save by improving your credit.

Credit Score | Interest Rate (Used Cars) | Interest Rate (New Cars) | Lifetime Interest Payments*
Deep Subprime (300-500) 20.30% 14.20% $87,523
Subprime (501-600) 16.56% 10.58% $65,549
Nonprime (601-660) 10.13% 6.64% $39,031
Prime (661-780) 5.59% 3.69% $20,937
Super Prime (781-850) 3.80% 2.65% $14,545

*Based on the average prices of two used cars ($21,438 each) and four new cars ($34,635 each) over a lifetime, and respective interest rates.

Credit card interest payments by credit score

Man worried about data breach
Dean Drobot /

This analysis does use the assumption that an individual would pay a 2% minimum on their debts for the sake of comparison between credit score ranges and to allow us to examine a lifetime balance.

Most banks require a minimum credit score of 670 in order to qualify for credit cards. Credit-builder cards can be a good option for those with low credit scores.

However, it is expected that those with better credit would likely pay off their monthly balance in full, and therefore would not pay any interest each month.

For many credit card users, this is simply not possible in their current financial situation, therefore the below figures give some indication of the huge difference in interest payments people can pay depending on their credit scores.

Credit Cards | Interest Rate | Lifetime Interest Payments
579 or lower 21% $8,761
580-619 20.5% $7,984
620-659 19% $6,252
660-719 16.50% $4,411
720 or greater 13.50% $2,997

In addition, those who have a prolonged period of trying to pay down a credit card balance could see their credit score plummet further in the future, affecting their finances and interest rates negatively.


Man using too much data on his phone, tablet and laptop
Bacho /

We used data from a range of sources to analyze what the average person would pay across the following financial data points: mortgages, car loans, student loans, and credit card loans. The interest rate for these loans was dictated by the average FICO credit score in each state.


  • Interest payments were analyzed across a 30 year period based on the assumption that an individual would have paid off their home after this time.
  • Mortgage size was based on the median home value per state with a 20% down payment.
  • Monthly payments were presumed to be equal in each instalment using an amortization schedule.

Car loans:

  • We took the average balance of auto loans in each state from 2020.
  • Interest rate was dictated by the state’s average credit score.
  • We assumed six car loans over a lifetime.
  • A 20% down payment was also accounted for.

Why six cars? Most analyses state that the average person will have 9.4 cars over their lifetime, however not every single one of these vehicles will be purchased through loans. One survey indicates that Americans will use a loan for 85% of new car purchases, and 53% of used cars, therefore we calculated two out of four used cars, and four out of five new cars would be purchased with loans.

Credit cards:

  • Credit card interest was worked out under the assumption of paying a 2% monthly minimum until cleared.
  • This was based on the average credit card debt amount per state.
  • Based on this minimum amount, we worked out how many months it would take to clear the debt, therefore understanding how much time an individual would also be paying interest.

Student loans (federal) were analyzed over a 20-year period at 6% interest based on the average loan debt on graduation in each state.

Medical debt was ignored as roughly only 1 in 3 have this type of loan, therefore would not be representative of the average person.

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