Talk about hammering the plastic. In January 2018, Australia’s 16.7 million credit card accounts were used to make 245 million transactions with a total value of $27.3 billion. We are currently paying interest on $32.6 billion worth of credit card debt, running up an annual interest bill of over $5.3 billion (that’s $5,300,000,000 in interest!).
It’s not just the easy money that cards provide; it’s the easy form of delivery via “tap and go” that’s pushing our debt to extraordinary levels. The quicker the transaction, the less thought or planning required. Pay now and think about it (and deal with it) later.
Don’t become a statistic – here are some things to look out for plus a few tips.
Tap and Go Traps
- Over 40% of credit card spending goes on groceries and utilities. While this isn’t a problem if you pay off your card balance in full each month, if you’re paying interest just so you can buy the necessities of life, it’s a real danger sign that you may be living beyond your means.
- Most credit limits are well beyond cardholder needs. On average, Australians only use about a third of their available credit limits each month. However, by giving you a higher credit limit card issuers hope temptation will get the better of you. If that means you can’t pay off your entire balance each month you’ll end up paying them lots of interest.
- Also bear in mind that if you apply for a personal loan or mortgage in the future, lenders will look at your combined card limits, not just the balances. High credit limits will affect the size of loan approved. Reduce the temptation and reduce your limits to appropriate amounts.
- Beware the bonus card. Yet another credit card may come with a new mortgage. Look out for annual fees or other costs and make sure you understand what’s involved. If you don’t need it, cancel it.
Tap and Go Tips
- Financial institutions can only offer to increase your credit limit if you specifically ‘opt in’. This can be done in writing or over the phone. However, it’s prudent to withhold this permission to keep your limit under control. You can always apply for a once-off increase if you really need to.
- Switch to a reloadable (pre-paid) credit card. Like a debit card it means you are using your own money with the added advantages that you can pre-set a limit on your spending and reduce the risks associated with buying online. Reloadable cards are available from banks, other financial institutions and Australia Post. Make sure you check any fees and charges before buying one.
- If you sign up for a new card for an interest-free purchase, pay it off during the interest-free period then cancel the card before the renewal fee is automatically charged. There is no point paying an annual fee if you’re not going to use the card.
And a myth
Many people think that it is only lower income earners who are susceptible to the siren call of easy credit. But like the Sirens of Greek folklore themselves, it’s a myth. In fact, higher income earners also rack up huge balances on gold, platinum and diamond cards, and can experience real difficulty in paying them off.
If your credit cards are more an enemy than a friend, contact us to arrange an appointment. We will be able to suggest a range of solutions to get you back on track.
Katrina (Kate) Beaumont Authorised credit representative of Blueprint Planning Pty Ltd (ABN 78 097 264554), trading as Blueprint Wealth, Authorised Representative and Credit Representative of AMP Financial Planning Pty Ltd (232 706), Australian Financial Services Licensee and Australian Credit Licensee (232 706).
This article contains information that is general in nature. It does not take into account the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular person. You need to consider your financial situation and needs before making any decisions based on this information. If you decide to purchase or vary a financial product, your financial adviser, AMP Financial Planning Pty Ltd and other companies within the AMP Group may receive fees and other benefits. The fees will be a dollar amount and/or a percentage of either the premium you pay or the value of your investment. Please contact us if you want more information.
www.rba.gov.au Credit and charge card statistics as at January 2018.
ASIC’s MoneySmart website www.moneysmart.gov.au
To get current credit card figure go to www.rba.gov.au/statistics/tables go to Payments System and download the C1 Credit & Charge Card statistics spreadsheet.
To update the total interest figure go to: https://www.moneysmart.gov.au/borrowing-and-credit/credit-cards/credit-card-debt-clock