Australian credit card and debit card statistics 2020

Discover exactly how the average Australian uses their credit card with our comprehensive guide to credit card statistics.

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There are 13,668,490 credit cards in Australia as of November 2020, netting a national debt accruing interest of $20.9 billion. For many Australians, managing credit and debt through credit cards is a common element of their day-to-day money habits, while for others a few bad mistakes have resulted in a downward debt spiral. But what does the state of Australia's credit card use actually look like?

How many people have a credit card?

Number of credit cards in circulation – 13,720,907
Number of debit cards in circulation – 34,861,747

Could these Australians manage their finances without a credit card?

  • Yes – 72%
  • No – 28%

How many people have been rejected?

While 12.6 million Australians currently have a credit card, some have run into difficulties accessing this form of credit. Of those who have been denied, unsteady income (36%) is the top culprit, followed by having too much debt (22%) and having a bad credit score (21%).

Have you ever been rejected for the following?

  • Credit card – 8%
  • Personal loan – 6%
  • Home loan – 4%
  • Car loan – 3%
  • Business loan – 3%
  • None of the above – 83%

Australian credit and debit card statistics

Why do Australians take out a credit card?

Emergencies, rewards and big-ticket items among top reasons for taking out a credit card. What are the top reasons you got your most recent credit card?

  • For emergencies – 41%
  • Rewards/frequent flyer points – 38%
  • Make a big purchase – 21%
  • Establish my credit – 18%
  • Pay off debt/do a balance transfer – 11%
  • Manage a drop in income – 8%

Interest rates

According to the Reserve Bank of Australia, the average standard credit card rate is 19.94%.

YearStandard credit card rateCash rate
Aug-0016.64%6.25%
Aug-0116.01%5.00%
Aug-0216.01%4.75%
Aug-0316.01%4.75%
Aug-0416.51%5.25%
Aug-0516.80%5.50%
Aug-0617.32%6.00%
Aug-0718.12%6.50%
Aug-0819.92%7.25%
Aug-0917.97%3.00%
Aug-1019.52%4.50%
Aug-1119.69%4.75%
Aug-1219.59%3.50%
Aug-1319.55%2.50%
Aug-1419.77%2.50%
Aug-1519.77%2.00%
Aug-1619.77%1.50%
Aug-1719.77%1.50%
Aug-1819.77%1.50%
Aug-1919.94%1.00%
Aug-2019.94%0.25%

Comparing how we use credit cards and debit cards

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According to Finder's latest Consumer Sentiment Tracker data, 68% of Australians say they have a credit card, with younger generations slightly more likely to have additional cards.

How much do Australians put on plastic?

  • Average credit card purchase – $101
  • Average debit card purchase – $47
  • Average credit card balance – $2,728
  • Average balance accruing interest – $1,501

And how long does it take to pay off this debt?

  • 6.5 months on average

By gender

  • Female – 6.9 months
  • Male – 6.2 months

By generation

  • Baby boomers – 5.6 months
  • Gen X – 7.8 months
  • Gen Y – 6.7 months
  • Gen Z – 4.9 months

Where do they turn if they can't pay it off?

Worryingly, only half of Aussies who find themselves buried under out-of-control credit card debt would be able to dig themselves out.

If you were unable to meet a repayment on your credit card where would you turn first?

  • Emergency savings – 52%
  • Ask family/friends for help – 18%
  • I would call my bank/provider/issuer for help – 18%
  • I would miss the payment – 5%
  • Other – 4%
  • Take out a small personal loan to cover it – 3%

Unfortunately, some have missed the due date and faced a late fee…

Have you ever paid a late fee on your credit card?

  • Yes – 64%
  • No – 25%
  • I don't know – 11%

So how can Australians stay on top of their credit card debt?

What do the experts say?

Amy Bradney-George, credit card expert at Finder

  • "You can use a credit card repayment calculator to work out a payment plan that's affordable for you. Some credit card providers (including CommBank, Westpac and American Express) also offer instalment plans that let you pay off some or all of your balance in equal instalments over a fixed period of time, which can make it easier to budget for them."

Taylor Blackburn, personal finance specialist at Finder

  • "The best way to stay on top of your credit card debt is to only spend within your means. Credit cards aren't just free money, so be careful with your spending habits and avoid purchasing things you don't really need. If you do find yourself in debt, you can buy yourself some extra time by taking out a 0% balance transfer card and consolidating your debt. The less you pay on interest, the more you can put towards actually paying off your debt."

Graham Cooke, head of consumer research at Finder

  • "There are two very different types of credit cards on the market in Australia - cards with low interest, and cards with rewards. Both are fantastic but both are aimed at very different customers. Start with a basic card, with a low rate. Only if you can successfully spend on this card and pay it off in full every month should you consider upgrading to a rewards card. If you do, however, the rewards can be great."

How has the way Australians use credit cards changed over the years?

The table below depicts the average number of accounts per year, the total number of purchases and total purchase spend nationally, the average balance per card and the proportion of that balance accruing interest.

YearAverage number of accountsTotal purchasesTotal purchase spendAverage balance per cardAverage balance costing interest per card
19956,746,697222,868,506$20,597,739,000$874N/A
19967,171,681255,926,530$24,078,698,000$972N/A
19977,661,050306,538,311$29,762,529,000$1,035N/A
19988,107,751398,763,305$39,470,829,551$1,147N/A
19998,561,463525,309,976$53,128,809,000$1,306N/A
20009,186,426649,922,261$68,453,965,000$1,504N/A
20019,599,600759,148,482$83,115,641,870$1,725N/A
200210,282,275947,767,228$116,664,397,888$2,103$631
200310,575,9671,031,336,591$130,440,292,840$2,312$1,651
200411,252,8491,128,383,286$146,820,781,569$2,460$1,740
200512,024,4531,190,060,674$158,069,300,586$2,616$1,864
200612,936,1181,272,931,471$173,858,692,493$2,808$2,025
200713,587,8811,352,394,063$192,242,080,255$2,988$2,153
200814,009,6571,419,498,599$207,261,032,164$3,117$2,246
200914,325,3621,480,775,018$214,328,417,751$3,137$2,275
201014,642,2491,572,957,315$228,361,716,728$3,255$2,378
201114,892,2801,662,483,739$239,519,644,050$3,301$2,430
201215,076,7231,775,592,807$250,772,348,072$3,301$2,404
201315,381,7231,916,774,355$262,483,543,475$3,221$2,243
201415,580,2332,072,287,892$277,821,174,277$3,216$2,141
201516,130,6542,261,954,681$292,004,583,824$3,162$2,012
201616,616,8992,485,845,816$302,791,702,116$3,115$1,953
201716,719,0552,690,396,502$316,346,748,192$3,108$1,922
201816,160,2562,853,596,452$326,618,113,078$3,219$1,999
201915,443,8212,985,010,219$333,721,838,132$3,264$1,969
Are you a journalist or researcher? If you need any further data or custom research, please contact Graham Cooke.

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19 Responses

    Default Gravatar
    ElliAugust 23, 2018

    Hi,

    I was wondering if you could please tell me 3 pros and 3 cons of owning a credit card.

      Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JeniAugust 23, 2018Staff

      Hi Elli,

      Thank you for getting in touch with finder.

      These are some of the pros of credit cards:

      1. Flexibility. Credit cards allow the customer to avoid having to carry large amounts of cash around. They are perfect for those occasions when an unexpected purchase becomes necessary, and sufficient cash is not available. They also allow for quick and simple phone and internet transactions.
      2. Safety. When cash is lost or stolen, there may be no way of recovering it. If your credit card is lost or stolen, the card will be replaced, and your maximum liability for fraudulent use is limited by law to $50. However, Visa, Mastercard and American Express all operate zero-liability policies so that the customer is not liable for even a single cent.
      3. Spending power. Credit limits on credit cards often mean that customers can purchase large goods straight away that they would normally have to save up for over many months.

      These are some of the cons of credit cards:

      1. Overspending. When talking about the pros and cons of credit cards, this is the classic downside. Some individuals can get easily carried away with their credit card, creating a debt that is beyond their means to pay off. Credit cards should not be seen as having access to “free money”. In fact, once the interest starts kicking in, you will end up paying more than the purchase price of your goods.
      2. Multitasking. A credit card should be used for just one task. If it has a good rate for purchases, then it should be reserved for that. If a balance transfer is made to a credit card, then it should be used for nothing else. Problems arise when customers think it’s okay to carry out both these transactions on their credit card simultaneously. This creates a conflict of interest – literally. The lower interest debt is always paid off first, which means the higher interest purchases will keep accruing interest untouched by your repayments.
      3. False sense of security. Covering everyday purchases on a credit card can lead customers to believe they have more cash available than they really do. Having cash in your pocket must be logically balanced by the level of your credit card debt. If your credit card debt is building, your ready cash should be set aside to cover it at the end of the month.

      These are the main pros and cons to be aware of with credit card ownership. Remember that owning a credit card means you are involved in a legally-binding contract, so you need to make sure you are playing a straight game.

      You may also want to read the benefits and disadvantages of having a credit card by checking out this page.

      I hope this helps.

      Please feel free to reach out to us if you have any other enquiries.

      Thank you and have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Jeni

    Default Gravatar
    CatherineJuly 24, 2018

    Hi – I’d like to know what amount the average Australian is paying off on their credit card each month. The monetary amount not the percentage. Is this something you have? Thank you

      Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JeniJuly 24, 2018Staff

      Hi Catherine,

      Thank you for getting in touch with finder.

      The level of credit card debt can go up or down depending on what the trend is on a monthly basis. As per this page, the average credit card purchase as of February this year is at $118.97.

      Information we have on this page is from the RBA. You may also want to read more about credit card debt on this page.

      I hope this helps.

      Have a great day!

      Cheers,
      Jeni

    Default Gravatar
    GrahamMay 24, 2017

    Can you advise what % of total Australian credit cards and the related purchase value is transacted with a MasterCard please and what % is spent on holidays and travel?

      Avatarfinder Customer Care
      RenchMay 26, 2017Staff

      Hi Graham,

      Thanks for your question.

      Unfortunately, we don’t have the information you are looking for. What we do have is the overall number of purchases using all types of Australian credit cards and debit cards as shown above this page.

      Kind regards,
      Rench

    Default Gravatar
    RolandNovember 16, 2016

    Hi,
    Great website!

    How many credit card transactions are done per year with no credit card present, ie. over the Internet, phone etc, people just entering in the numbers digitally?

    Thanks!
    Roland

      Avatarfinder Customer Care
      DeeNovember 17, 2016Staff

      Hi Roland,

      Thanks for your question.

      Unfortunately, we don’t have the information you are looking for. What we do have is the overall (with and without card) average usage of each cardholder which is 13 per month and 159 per year.

      Cheers,
      Anndy

      Default Gravatar
      DonaldMay 21, 2017

      The staff reply to Roland about the number of transactions per cardholder gives a figure of an average of 159 credit card transactions per year. That appears to correspond to the year 2016. And I think it only covers purchase transactions, excluding payment transactions. Where by payment transaction I mean the cardholder paying off some or all money owed on the card.
      What I notice is that back in 1995, twenty years ago, cardholders only appear to have been using credit cards about an average of 30 times per year, and by 2016 that figure of 30 has grown to 159.
      159 – 30 = 129. 129 is about 2½ purchases per week that are now charged through credit cards, but were not charged through credit cards twenty years ago.
      Over the same twenty year period, the number of cards on issue has grown from about 50% of the Australian adult population to about 100% of the Australian adult population (but with some having more than one card and others no credit card). Meanwhile bank profitabilities have generally quadrupled.
      Thanks. I think this corroborates the conception that wealth was being concentrated in fewer hands over the course of the twenty years.

    Default Gravatar
    SamOctober 18, 2016

    Hi there,
    I was wondering- do you have an stats for how many Australians are now choosing to pay by card? (debit, eftpos, credit, etc)

      Avatarfinder Customer Care
      MayNovember 3, 2016Staff

      Hi Sam,

      Thank you for your question.

      I’m afraid we do not have that information available. You may try checking with Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) and the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA).

      Cheers,
      May

    Default Gravatar
    LukeSeptember 15, 2016

    Hi, I was wondering how many new credit cards are approved each month? Or perhaps the average churn rate pa on Credit Cards.

      Avatarfinder Customer Care
      MaySeptember 15, 2016Staff

      Hi Luke,

      Thanks for your inquiry.

      I’m afraid we do not have that information available, but you may try checking with Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) and Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA).

      Hope that helps.

      Cheers,
      May

    Default Gravatar
    HamishMay 18, 2015

    How many consumer credit card applications are made a year?

      Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JonathanMay 18, 2015Staff

      Hi Hamish, thanks for your inquiry!

      Please note that finder.com.au is a comparison service, it may be best to check with official statistical agencies such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics for this inquiry.

      Cheers,

      Jonathan

    Default Gravatar
    GregMarch 20, 2015

    How much does the average australian spend, a month, on debit card transactions.
    I have found the statistics for credit card but not for debit card transactions.

    Thank you

      Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JonathanMarch 20, 2015Staff

      Hi Greg, thanks for your inquiry!

      Unfortunately the household debt report by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) does not include the average amount for debit card transactions. It would be best to contact the ABS directly for more information/statistics on this measure.

      Cheers,

      Jonathan

    Default Gravatar
    LeeMarch 25, 2013

    How many 18-25 year-old Australians have a credit card?

      Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JacobMarch 25, 2013Staff

      Hi Lee. Sorry, these statistics are not available to us. Try the Reserve Bank of Australia. They publish credit card and charge card statistics.
      Jacob.

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