If you’re like many Australians you’ve got quite a debt on your credit card.
The problem is for many people the money runs out before the month does and they borrow on their credit cars thinking the money in their limit is theirs.
And it isn’t — they pay for the privilege of using it.
Finder.com.au’s analysis of RBA data reveals that Australian credit card debt costing interest has peaked at $33 billion for the first time in two years.
The new data shows the total debt clocking up interest as of February 2018 stood at $33,004,221,216, up from $32,598,897,600 the month prior (January).
The average debt per card has also hit a two-year high of $1,990 indicating Australians may be swiping their plastic instead of using their own money.
Meanwhile, there is more credit available on card than ever
The total credit limit nationally has hit an all-time high of $153.5 billion, with $9,258 an average available to spend per card.
Graham Cooke, Insights Manager at finder.com.au, says Aussies may be turning to credit as a result of pressure from ballooning household debt.
“The average credit card holder is paying interest on nearly $2,000 of their balance. Paying this off over two years at the average interest rate on the market (16.93%) could potentially cost over $400 in interest alone,” he says.
The $1.2 billion added to interest-accruing debt since December may be the result of increased pressure due to skyrocketing household debt.
To put this into context, recent UBS data indicates that national household debt now stands at 200% of income.
Mr Cooke says taking out a balance transfer card can be a useful tactic for some credit card holders.
“If you’re struggling to pay off your plastic debt, consider a 0% balance transfer card as this allows you to move your balance across and pay no interest for a given timeframe — usually for one year or more.
“There are cards available on the market right now from National Australia Bank (NAB) and Westpac with 25 and 24 month interest-free windows respectively, so weigh up your options.
“However, these cards can have a higher revert rate so make sure you pay your balance off within the given time frame.
Also, some of these cards will apply a one-off transfer fee, so keep this in mind when doing your research,” he says.
Mr Cooke warns consumers to be cautious of upping their credit card limit because of the impact it can have on their credit score.
“While there are fewer cards in circulation now than there were at the end of 2016, the amount of credit available to Australian is higher than ever.”
“Although a big credit limit may be reassuring in case of an emergency, try not to rely on it for everyday purchases. Also, remember that a higher credit limit can adversely affect your borrowing capacity when applying for other financial products.”
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