Credit card use rises despite fewer accounts

RBA credit card usage

The number of active credit card accounts in Australia have fallen, but that hasn’t stopped the increase in spending with them, according to the latest data from the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA).

The data shows that despite the number of credit card accounts falling 5% from December 2017 to just under 16 million in December 2018, the total number of credit card purchases increased significantly.

Credit cards made around 26.4 million purchases in December 2018 – up 7% on the year before.

There were 1,627,000 extra purchases made using credit (and charge) cards, indicating that the average person is using their credit card more.

The total value of all of these purchases was $28.9 billion – up $1 billion (or 3.5%) from December 2017’s figure of $27.9 billion.

Less total credit card debt, but higher average debt per card.

Australia loves its credit cards – a review by watchdog ASIC found in Mid-2018 that we owe a total of $45 billion in credit card debt. That’s about $2,000 per person.

The RBA’s data reports that December 2018’s total balance on credit cards is $51.9 billion.

This is an ever-so-slight decline on previous month’s figures, with total balances falling by 0.24% from November and 2% from December 2017.

The current national balance accruing interest is $31.4 billion, which is 1% lower than what it was in December 2017.

There are a number of factors that could have contributed to this falling credit card debt, including:

  • Low unemployment levels, giving people more savings to use for spending and paying off credit card debt;
  • Less consumer spending and confidence overall, thanks to economic factors like the declining housing market;
  • The emergence of buy-now-pay-later schemes like Zip and Afterpay, which create different kinds of debt;
  • Less confidence in credit cards due to hearings from the Royal Commission.

william.jolly@savings.com.au

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