Australians Up To Their Neck With Credit Cards

Credit card ownership is reaching saturation levels among Australians, according to, the country’s biggest credit card comparison website. The research reveals there are 16.3 billion credit card accounts – equivalent to 90% of the adult population.

New analysis of Reserve Bank of Australia data by reveals Australians have $18 billion more credit card debt than they did a decade ago. Australians had amassed $32 billion in credit card debt that was accruing interest in December 2015 – up 34% from $24 billion in a decade. 

Bessie Hassan, Consumer Advocate at, says credit cards are reaching saturation levels among Australians.

“A whopping 90% of people aged 18 and above have one credit card, on average. That’s up from 79% ten years ago,” says Ms Hassan. Not only were the numbers of credit card accounts on the rise; credit limits had also spiked dramatically.

“Credit card limits rose a staggering 61% – from $92 billion in December 2005 to a staggering $148 billion in December 2015. “This rise in credit limits has outstripped any rises in the cost of living over that period of time, with the Consumer Price Index only increasing 25% since December 2005.

“Credit card ownership has become the norm.  Australians seem to be paying for many things on credit which they once did on savings – which is not a bad thing if you can pay your balance off in full each month,” she says. She warns with higher limits comes higher risk.

“Cardholders are falling into the trap of spending beyond their limits. Maxing out your credit cards will leave you chasing your tail trying to pay it off and high interest charges.

The number of credit card accounts has gone up by 31% from in the past ten years, while the adult population has only increased by 20% in that time. “The rise of credit cards has been fairly phenomenal – there may come a time when they outnumber people,” says Ms Hassan.

“They are a convenient way to borrow money over the short term but have become a quick way to rack up dangerous levels of debt,” she says. Total balances on credit cards hit $52 billion in December 2015 - a whopping 52% more than the $34 billion in December 2005. The total balance per card is currently $3,192, $1,971 of which is accruing interest.

Ms Hassan has some straightforward advice for borrowers. “Don’t accept a higher credit limit just because a lender offers it to you. Pay off the balance before the due date if you can. If you are struggling under the weight of the debt, consider a 0% balance transfer to allow you some time to get back in control of the money owing,” she says.