There are 13,446,606 credit cards in Australia as of September 2023, netting a national debt accruing interest of $18.1 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, and how much do they spend?
Number of credit cards in circulation: 13,446,606
Average balance per credit card: $3,026
Average balance costing interest per credit card: -$0
Average number of purchases per credit card per month: 23
Average credit card purchase: $113
Could these Australians manage their finances without a credit card?
How many people have a debit card, and how much do they spend?
Number of debit cards in circulation: 40,570,777
Average number of purchases per debit card per month: 23
Average debit card purchase: $50.99
How many people have been rejected?
While 13.7 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%
The Future of Credit Cards
Finder's newest report, The Future of Credit Cards, delves into the state of Australia's credit card market. We examine the impact of COVID-19 on the credit card environment, how consumer demands are evolving and the trends shaping the future of lending. We look at generational differences in the demand for credit, and in particular the rise of buy now pay later among younger consumers. Finally, Finder's experts share their thoughts on how credit cards are changing and the future of the industry.
Download the full report here.
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%
According to the Reserve Bank of Australia, the average standard credit card rate is 19.82%.
|Year||Standard credit card rate||Cash rate|
Comparing how we use credit cards and debit cards
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 – $113
- Average debit card purchase – $50.99
- Average credit card balance – $3,026
- Average balance accruing interest – -$0
And how long does it take to pay off this debt?
- Female – 6.9 months
- Male – 6.2 months
- 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 credit 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 rates, and credit 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 purchases spend nationally, the average balance per card, and the proportion of that balance accruing interest.
How does America compare?
Due to differences in population, it's no surprise that there are 551 million more credit card accounts in America than circulating credit cards in Australia. The average American credit card debt is also 26.6% larger, with $3,911 spent on the average card each month. To see more statistics on American credit cards, head to this page.
Are you a journalist or researcher? If you need any further data or custom research, please contact Graham Cooke.