Credit card debt up by $6.6 million in a month

author-avatar By on April 07, 2021
Credit card debt up by $6.6 million in a month

Reserve Bank data indicates total Australian credit card debt was $20.85 billion in February 2021, up $6.6 million from January.

However, both of these figures are down from December 2020's total value of credit card balances accruing interest (debt), which reached just over $21 billion in original terms.

Credit card debt is well down on March 2020 figures of more than $25 billion when COVID-19 lockdowns hit Australia.

Over the course of 2020, total credit card debt plummeted by roughly one quarter. 

Related: January credit card balances record biggest ever fall.


Australians are also cancelling their credit card accounts, with the 13.49 million active accounts recorded in February down from 13.55 million in January. 

Total credit card transactions topped $24 billion however, an uptick from $22.9 billion in January, but still down from $29.6 billion in December.

The total value of ATM cash withdrawals also fell, down to $7.96 billion in February from $8.35 billion in January and $10.15 billion in December. 

February's figures represent the lowest level of ATM cash withdrawals since the $7.37 billion seen in May 2020, and these three months represent the lowest ATM withdrawal values on record, with Reserve Bank data going back to March 2008.

New Payments Platform (NPP) transactions - such as Osko - continued to gain popularity in February, up around $5.2 billion in a month to $60.56 billion.

This is the second-highest value recorded since the NPP (New Payments Platform) was introduced in February 2018, behind December 2020's Christmas spending at more than $66 billion. 

Osko transactions made up nearly $53 billion of the $60.55 billion in NPP payments.

Is BNPL picking up the slack in falling credit card use?

The first buy now, pay later offerings started appearing in Australia about seven years ago, coinciding with a general fall in credit card transactions.

However, the short answer is 'no' as to whether these two are linked, according to payments expert Grant Halverson.

"Credit card debit which is now 1.3% of all consumer debt is fading badly because the major banks are still pushing out of date product and are still hooked on airline point programs (which only attract transactors not revolvers) while they push mortgages as the major debt vehicle - which is working," he told Savings.com.au.

"BNPL after seven years has 0.65% of retail payments and the debt is unregistered as it's below one basis point.

"Debit has been growing double digits since 2009 - that's picking up consumer spend and debt is now split across a range of lending."

Mr Halverson was formerly an executive at Diners Club, and Citi. 


Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

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Harrison joined Savings in 2020. He is an experienced journalist, with previous stints at News Corp and financial comparison site Canstar. With a keen interest in personal finance, Harrison is passionate about helping consumers make more informed financial decisions.

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