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$5.5 billion credit card debt wiped out during COVID - featured image
By Brett Warren

$5.5 billion credit card debt wiped out during COVID

Australians have wiped a total of $5.5 billion of debt accruing interest from their credit cards since the start of COVID-19, a drop of 20 per cent, according to figures released by the RBA.

During this time Australians also took the scissors to their credit cards, closing almost half a million accounts in four months.

  Pre COVID-19 (March) July 2020 Change since COVID-19
Number of accounts  






Total balances accruing interest $27.0 billion $21.5 billion - $5.5 billion


Notes: excludes commercial cards, using original data from the RBA. Data released 7 September 2020. 

 Credit card trends

Year-on-year, debt accruing interest has dropped by $7.3 billion, while the number of credit card accounts has fallen by 1.4 million.

However, month-on-month, Australians used their credit cards 1.7 million times more in July compared to June.


June 2020 vs July 2020 July 2019 vs July 2020
Number of accounts -125,613

-1 %

-1.4 million


Total balances accruing interest -$1.3 billion


- $7.3 billion


Total number of transactions +1.7 million


-20.5 million


Total value of transactions - $602 million


- $4.1 billion


Notes: excludes commercial cards, using original data from the RBA. Data released 7 September 2020. 

Sally Tindall, research director at, said;

“One of the few positives from the COVID-19 pandemic is that credit card debt is being kicked to the curb.”

“Credit card debt is one of the worst types of debt, with interest rates climbing as high as 24.99 per cent. Getting rid of it will free up space in the family budget before the government scales back COVID relief payments.

“Not only are we clearing debt, but almost half a million accounts have been closed down since the pandemic came.

By shutting down a credit card, you’ve cut off the temptation to overspend.

Tax returns and early super release contributing to credit card debt decline

There are two major contributing factors leading to the $1.3 billion wiped off credit card debt in July: tax returns and early access to super.

In the month of July, 1.1 million people accessed their super for a second time taking out on average $8,511, according to APRA. Recession Australia Note Money Economy Squeeze Tighten Save Saving Budget Cut 300x200

While 2.6 million people received their tax returns in July, averaging $2,395, according to figures released from the ATO

Sally Tindall, research director at, explained:-

“Using lump sum payout like tax returns to pay off a credit card that’s accruing interest every month may help families stay afloat in the long run.

With JobKeeper and Jobseeker getting scaled back, the budgets of many households are about to get a lot tighter.

Not having to make regular credit card repayments will take a little pressure off for the tough times ahead.

However, don’t just swap one debt trap for another, if you’re overspending on buy now, pay later services, then shut down those accounts too,” she said.

Now is the time to take action and set yourself for the opportunities that will present themselves as the market moves on


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About Brett Warren Brett Warren is National Director of Metropole Properties and uses his two decades of property investment experience to advise clients how to grow, protect and pass on their wealth through strategic property advice.
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