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Five months and counting: credit card debt continues to rise

Eden Radford avatar
Eden Radford
- 5 min read
Five months and counting: credit card debt continues to rise

Australia’s total credit card debt attracting interest charges has risen for the fifth month in a row, as households across the country struggle to get on top of their credit card debt.

The latest RBA credit card statistics, released today for the month of April, shows the total credit card bill attracting interest on personal credit cards is now $17.69 billion, a rise of over $29 million from the previous month.

Up until December of last year, Australians had been consciously chipping away at credit card debt for much of 2023, despite the rate hikes and the rising cost of living. As a result, Australia’s total credit card bill is actually $71 million lower than it was the same time a year ago.

However, over the past five months (December - Apri inclusive), things have started to unravel, with the total bill attracting interest charges rising by almost $405 million since November of last year.

RBA: Credit card debt attracting interest charges (excludes commercial cards)

Amount owing – April 2024Monthly changeChange since Nov 23Year-on-year change
$17.69 billion+$29.37 million+$404.9 million-$71.31 million
+0.2%+2.3%-0.4%

Source: RBA, released 7 June 2024, original data, excludes commercial cards.

Australia’s total credit card bill attracting interest changes – last year

Australia total credit card bill

Source: RBA, released 7 June 2024, original data, excludes commercial cards.

Monthly interest bill clocks in at $266 million for April

RBA data shows customers with debt owing on their credit card are paying an average interest rate of 18.31 per cent.

This means these customers collectively shelled out almost $8.9 million a day in interest charges in April, which translates into over $266 million in just one month.

Since December of last year, the total interest bill paid to credit card companies was an estimated $1.34 billion over five months (Dec – April inclusive).

The number of credit card accounts drops for the first time since September 2022

The number of credit card accounts dropped in the month of April by almost 7,000 accounts – the first drop in over a year and a half (September 2022).

Number of credit card accounts: April 2024 (Note: commercial cards are excluded)

AmountMonthly changeYear-on-year change
12.67 million-6,994+119,107
-0.1%0.9%

Source: RBA, released 7 June 2024, original data, excludes commercial cards.

Credit card spending ticks up in March

Spending on credit cards dropped in April, however, overall across both credit and debit cards, spending was up $2.84 billion in seasonally adjusted terms.

Total value of transactions: personal credit and debit cards

Amount – April 2024Monthly changeYear-on-year change
Credit (personal cards only)$35.71 billion-$17.5 million+$1.05 billion
-0.05%+3.0%
Debit$52.51 billion+$2.86 billion+$5.75 billion
5.8%12.3%
Total$88.22 billion+$2.84 billion+$6.80 billion
+3.3%+8.3%

Source: RBA, released 7 June 2024, seasonally adjusted data, excludes commercial cards.

RateCity.com.au research director, Sally Tindall, said: “Australia’s credit card problem is continuing to worsen, with debt attracting interest rising for the fifth month in a row.”

“We’re used to seeing credit card debt go backwards now and then, particularly over the summer months, however, this is only the second time we’ve seen debt rise for five consecutive months since 2018,” she said.

“While millions of Australians use their credit cards daily without ever paying a dollar in interest, others are firmly stuck on the debt treadmill with limited ways off.

“The stage three tax cuts will help some families balance the budget for the first time in months, however, for others, it will hopefully allow them to make headway into their debt.

“If you’re having trouble seeing the wood for the trees, consider a circuit breaker that will help you clear your debt for good.

“Switching to a low rate credit card will help minimise the fallout from the monthly interest bill, but switching to a low rate personal loan, which forces you to pay down your balance in full, could help you break away from the debt cycle for good,” she said.

Credit card and personal loan rates
Average personal loan rate (new loans, fixed and variable)10.07%
Average credit card rate (of those paying interest)18.31%
Lowest credit card rate7.49%
Number of cards under 10% (excludes 0% cards)12

Source: RBA, RateCity.com.au

Credit cards under 10% on RateCity.com.au

Note: excludes 0% cards that charge fees instead

CardRateAnnual fee
G&C Mutual Low Rate Visa7.49%$50
Community First Low Rate card8.99%$40
Move Bank Low Rate card8.99%$0 for first 12 mths then $59
Defence Bank Foundation Visa8.99%$45
Easy Street Financial Easy Low Rate8.99%$40
Bank First Visa Platinum9.59%$99
Australian Unity Low Rate Visa9.90%$59
Westpac Lite card9.90%$108
Greater Bank Visa credit card9.95%$49
Bendigo Bank Bright card9.99%$59
Coastline Visa9.99%$0
Bank of us Visa Credit9.99%$39

Source: RateCity.com.au

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Product database updated 22 Jun, 2024

This article was reviewed by Research Director Sally Tindall before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.