credit card travel

Debt lag: How to deal with debt after a holiday

Stuck with credit card or loan debt after a holiday? Here's how to deal with your "debt lag".

Many Australians use credit cards or loans to pay for trips away, whether it's just for a part of it, such as accommodation or flights, or even the whole trip! But what happens when you return home and you have to repay the credit card or loan debt? To make sure your holiday debt doesn't stay with you for years to come, we'll show you how to deal with your holiday debt lag.

What is "debt lag"?

Debt lag is any debt that you've accrued paying for a trip away. This can be money you charged to your credit card before you went, such as flights or pre-booked accommodation, or even a personal loan you took out before you went to pay for the trip.

Why is debt lag so common?

Many people rely on products like credit cards and personal loans for travel and can get into debt even when they don't plan to. Here is what is contributing to the debt lag problem:

  • Credit cards are used for spending overseas. Many credit cards offer overseas travel-spending features such as $0 foreign currency fees and $0 overseas AM fees. Because of this, people spend on their credit card and are not restricted by what they have available in their bank accounts, only their credit limit. It's important to repay what you spend on a travel credit card as quickly as you can.
  • Personal loans for travel. If you take out an unsecured personal loan for travel you are spending money that you don't currently have. Unless you have a plan to repay it soon after your return, you could be repaying that debt over the next few years. This will limit your ability to save and take future trips within that period unless you borrow money for it again, keeping you in a debt trap.

I have travel debt, what do I do?

If you've returned from a holiday and have leftover debt, there are a number of things you can do to repay it sooner. Here are some of your options:

  • Make more than your minimum credit card repayments. Each credit card has a minimum repayment that you're required to make each month, usually 2%. If you just make this minimum repayment it will take you a long time to repay your debt. Pay as much as you can towards your credit card to ensure you're not getting charged too much interest and you can get the debt repaid as quickly as possible.
  • Put extra or lump sum repayments towards your personal loan. Personal loans also have a minimum repayment but unlike credit cards, this will ensure your debt is repaid within the loan term. However, you can repay your loan off sooner if you make additional repayments towards your loan. Just make sure you won't be charged a penalty for doing this or for repaying your loan ahead of schedule.
  • Debt consolidation personal loan. If you have multiple debts or you are paying a high interest rate on your personal loan, you may want to consider a debt consolidation personal loan. This will allow you to transfer your debt to a new loan and save on fees as well as interest. The key to a debt consolidation personal loan is to make sure the new loan is going to cost you less than what you are currently paying.
  • Balance transfer credit card. If you have debts spread across multiple cards you can consider applying for a balance transfer credit card to repay them at 0% p.a. interest for a certain period of time. Balance transfer credit cards work by letting you combine debts from multiple credit cards in the new balance transfer credit card and then repaying that debt at 0% p.a. for a set period, usually between6-24 months. Make sure you'll be able to repay the debt in this period as the revert rate on these cards can be quiet high, around 20% p.a.

How can you avoid debt lag (before you go away)?

The easiest way to avoid debt lag is to make sure it doesn't happen in the first place. Here are some ways to avoid getting into debt over a holiday:

  • Book your trip well in advance and repay it before you go. If you're planning on relying on credit for a trip, for example for your flights, then why not book further in advance? Work out how long you would need to repay the cost of your purchase and book that far in advance (you may even find better deals to reward your forward planning!). Then, when the time for your trip comes around you will be debt-free!
  • Consider Layby travel options. There are many ways you can "layby" travel. Companies let you select your travel option, put down a deposit and pay at a later date. This can be an option to consider if you can save up for the trip over time and want to repay it before you go.
  • Rely on travel debit cards rather than credit. Many travel debit and prepaid cards offer many similar features to travel credit cards, including no foreign currency fees and $0 ATM withdrawal. Some even let you earn rewards points.

Compare your options to deal with debt lag

Rates last updated October 18th, 2018
Name Product Interest Rate (p.a.) Comparison Rate (p.a.) Min Loan Amount Loan Term Application Fee Product Description
RateSetter 3-Years Personal Loan
From 8.69% (fixed)
11.24%
$2,001
0.5 to 5 years
$220
You'll receive a fixed rate from 8.69% p.a. based on your risk profile
A flexible loan with amounts from $2,001 and terms starting from 6 months. Interest and comparison rates calculated for a loan term of 5 years.
Harmoney Unsecured Personal Loan
From 6.99% (fixed)
7.69%
$5,000
3 to 5 years
$500 (Upfront fee)
You'll receive a fixed rate between 6.99% p.a. and 26.95% p.a. based on your risk profile.
Apply for a loan up to $70,000 and repay your loan over 3 or 5 years terms.
SocietyOne Unsecured Personal Loan
From 7.5% (fixed)
9.51%
$5,000
2 to 5 years
3% (of loan amount)
You'll receive a fixed rate between 7.5% p.a. and 19.99% p.a. based on your risk profile
A loan from $5,000 to use for a range of purposes. Benefit from no ongoing fees and no early repayment fee.
HSBC Personal Loan
From 9.5% (fixed)
10.06%
$5,000
1 to 5 years
$150
You'll receive a fixed rate between 9.5% p.a. and 15.99% p.a. based on your risk profile
An unsecured personal loan with a tailored, fixed rate where you can make additional and early repayments without penalty.
Latitude Personal Loan (Unsecured)
From 13.99% (fixed)
15.19%
$3,000
2 to 7 years
$250 (Loans under $4000 - $140)
You'll receive a fixed rate between 13.99% p.a. and 29.99% p.a. based on your risk profile
Apply for what you need from $3,000 and use it for a range of purposes. Flexible repayments options.
ANZ Fixed Rate Personal Loan
10.99% (fixed)
11.87%
$5,000
1 to 7 years
$150
You'll receive a fixed rate of 10.99% p.a.
Apply for up to $50,000 to use for a variety of purposes without needing to add security. Available to self-employed applicants.
Westpac Unsecured Personal Loan
12.99% (fixed)
14.14%
$4,000
1 to 7 years
$250
You'll receive a fixed rate of 12.99% p.a.
Benefit from the security of a fixed rate with the flexibility of additional repayments. Existing Westpac customers may qualify for discounts.
ANZ Variable Rate Personal Loan
15.99% (variable)
16.84%
$5,000
1 to 7 years
$150
You'll receive a variable rate of 15.99% p.a.
A flexible loan with amounts starting $5,000 that offers flexible repayments and a redraw facility.
Latitude Low Rate Personal Loan (Unsecured)
10.99% (fixed)
12.21%
$20,000
2 to 7 years
$250
You'll receive a fixed rate of 10.99% p.a.
A secured or unsecured loan available to homeowners with a large minimum borrowing amount of $20,000. Benefit from flexible repayments and fast approval.
Pepper Money Unsecured Fixed Rate Personal Loan
From 9.99% (fixed)
9.99%
$5,000
1 to 7 years
$0
You'll receive a fixed rate between 9.99% p.a. and 27.99% p.a. based on your risk profile
A loan from $50,000 to use for a range of purposes. Benefit from no monthly or application fees.
NOW FINANCE Personal Loans
From 8.95% (fixed)
10.56%
$5,000
1.5 to 7 years
$495 (Based on $10,000)
You'll receive a fixed rate between 8.95% p.a. and 16.95% p.a. based on your risk profile
Apply for loans from $5,000 and get a dedicated loan manager. No security required. Note: Get your loan approved and settled before 31 October 2018 and receive a $200 Coles gift card.
St.George Unsecured Personal Loan - Fixed Rate
From 12.99% (fixed)
14.06%
$2,000
1 to 5 years
$195
You'll receive a fixed rate between 12.99% p.a. and 19.99% p.a. based on your risk profile
A low minimum borrowing amount of $2,000 to fund a range of purposes.
Australian Military Bank Variable Rate Personal Loan
From 7.88% (variable)
8.72%
$1,000
1 to 7 years
from $100 to $500
You'll receive a variable rate between 7.88% p.a. and 18.82% p.a. based on your risk profile
An unsecured loan with flexible repayment options and a low minimum borrowing amount.
Australian Military Bank Fixed Rate Personal Loan
From 7.93% (fixed)
8.77%
$1,000
1 to 5 years
from $100 to $500
You'll receive a fixed rate between 7.93% p.a. and 18.87% p.a. based on your risk profile
An unsecured loan with a low minimum borrowing amount and flexible repayment options.
RACQ Bank Unsecured Personal Loan
12.95% (variable)
13.25%
$3,000
5 years
$200
You'll receive a variable rate of 12.95% p.a.
A low minimum borrowing amount of $3,000 that you can use for a range of purposes. Benefit from member discounts and flexible repayments. Only available to QLD residents

Compare up to 4 providers

Rates last updated October 18th, 2018
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% p.a.

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Name Product Balance transfer rate (p.a.) Purchase rate (p.a.) Annual fee Amount Saved Product Description
NAB Low Fee Platinum Card - Exclusive Offer
0% p.a. for 25 months
19.74% p.a.
$90 p.a.
finder Exclusive: Take advantage of 0% p.a. interest for 25 months on balance transfers with no balance transfer fee.
Westpac Low Rate Card
0% p.a. for 24 months with 1% balance transfer fee
13.49% p.a.
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($59 p.a. thereafter)
Offers a 0% for 24 month balance transfer option, first year annual fee waiver and a competitive purchase rate.
HSBC Platinum Credit Card
0% p.a. for 22 months with 2% balance transfer fee
19.99% p.a.
$129 p.a.
Offers a 0% p.a. for 22 months balance transfer and an annual fee refund each year when you spend $6,000. Plus, 2 airport lounge passes every year.
Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Card - Bonus Points Offer
0% p.a. for 18 months
20.74% p.a.
$64 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($129 p.a. thereafter)
Earn up to 60,000 bonus points in the first 3 months with a $64 first year annual fee. Plus, the chance to win 1 million Velocity Points.
ANZ Low Rate
0% p.a. for 15 months
12.49% p.a.
$58 p.a.
Save with a 0% p.a. introductory rate on balance transfers for 15 months with no BT fee. Plus a low 12.49% p.a. interest rate on purchases.
St.George Vertigo Classic
0% p.a. for 16 months
13.74% p.a.
$55 p.a.
Get 0% p.a. interest for up to 16 months on balance transfers with no BT fee. Plus, a competitively low annual fee and purchase rate.
HSBC Platinum Qantas Credit Card
0% p.a. for 12 months
19.99% p.a.
$199 p.a.
Receive 60,000 bonus Qantas Points when you spend $3,000 within 3 months of card approval, plus enjoy complimentary travel insurance.
Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Card - Balance Transfer Offer
0% p.a. for 18 months
20.74% p.a.
$64 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($129 p.a. thereafter)
Save with $64 first year annual fee and 0% p.a. balance transfer offer. Plus, the chance to earn 1 million Velocity Points. Ends 31 Oct 2018.
Bank of Melbourne Vertigo Classic
0% p.a. for 16 months
13.74% p.a.
$55 p.a.
Enjoy 0% p.a. interest for up to 16 months on balance transfers with no BT fee. Plus, a competitively low annual fee and purchase rate.
NAB Low Fee Card
0% p.a. for 18 months with 2% balance transfer fee
19.74% p.a.
$30 p.a.
Receive complimentary purchase protection insurance, a 18 month balance transfer offer and special offers from Visa Entertainment.
Citi Rewards Platinum Credit Card - Online Offer
0% p.a. for 24 months with 1.5% balance transfer fee
20.99% p.a.
$49 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($149 p.a. thereafter)
Earn reward Points per $1 spent, take advantage of a 0% p.a. for 24 month balance transfer offer, plus complimentary international travel insurance.
St.George Vertigo Platinum
0% p.a. for 26 months with 2% balance transfer fee
12.74% p.a.
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($99 p.a. thereafter)
Offers a long-term balance transfer, $0 first year annual fee, complimentary travel insurance and access to a 24/7 personal concierge service.
Citi Simplicity Card
0% p.a. for 6 months
19.99% p.a.
$0 p.a.
Get 0% p.a. interest for up to 6 months on balance transfers with no BT fee. Plus, a $0 annual fee for life.
BankSA Vertigo Classic
0% p.a. for 16 months
13.74% p.a.
$55 p.a.
Enjoy a 0% p.a. interest rate for up to 16 months on balance transfers with no balance transfer fee. Plus, a low variable purchase rate.
Citi Rewards Classic Credit Card
0% p.a. for 15 months with 1.5% balance transfer fee
20.99% p.a.
$49 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($99 p.a. thereafter)
Receive 1 point per $1 spent on eligible purchases, up to $50 cashback when you meet the minimum spend and a 15 month balance transfer offer.
ANZ First Visa Credit Card
0% p.a. for 18 months with 2% balance transfer fee
19.74% p.a.
$30 p.a.
Get up to 18 months interest-free on balance transfers and save with a low $30 annual fee. Plus, up to 44 days interest-free on purchases.
NAB Qantas Rewards Card
0% p.a. for 6 months with 2% balance transfer fee
19.99% p.a.
$95 p.a.
A Visa card that offers 0.5 Qantas points per $1 spent, complimentary purchase protection insurance and up to 44 interest-free days on purchases.
American Express Explorer Credit Card
0% p.a. for 12 months with 1% balance transfer fee
20.74% p.a.
$395 p.a.
Get 50,000 bonus Membership Rewards points, a yearly $400 Travel Credit and 2 entries per year to the American Express Lounge.
NAB Qantas Rewards Premium Card
0% p.a. for 6 months with 2% balance transfer fee
19.99% p.a.
$250 p.a.
Offers 30,000 bonus points when you meet the spend requirements and Qantas Points for your everyday spending. Plus a 24/7 personal concierge.
Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Card - 0% Interest Offer
0% p.a. for 6 months
0% p.a. for 14 months (reverts to 20.74% p.a.)
$129 p.a.
Enjoy 0% p.a. interest on purchases for 14 months. Plus, the chance to earn 1 million Velocity Points. Ends 31 Oct 2018.
NAB Low Rate Credit Card
0% p.a. for 6 months with 2% balance transfer fee
0% p.a. for 6 months (reverts to 13.99% p.a.)
$59 p.a.
Receive an introductory 0% p.a. interest rate for 6 months on purchases, Visa Entertainment offers and a competitive $59 ongoing annual fee.
NAB Rewards Classic Card
0% p.a. for 6 months with 2% balance transfer fee
19.99% p.a.
$95 p.a.
Get 30,000 bonus points when you meet the spend requirement, 0.75 NAB Rewards Points per $1 spent and a 0% p.a. balance transfer offer.
Bank of Melbourne Amplify Card
0% p.a. for 14 months (reverts to 19.49% p.a.)
$79 p.a.
Take advantage of 0% p.a. interest on purchases for the first 14 months. Plus, your choice of Amplify or Qantas Points.
American Express Velocity Escape Card
0% p.a. for 12 months with 1% balance transfer fee
20.74% p.a.
$0 p.a.
Earn uncapped Velocity Points on purchases, pay $0 annual fee for life and take advantage of a 0% p.a. for 12 months balance transfer offer.
American Express Platinum Edge Credit Card
0% p.a. for 12 months with 1% balance transfer fee
20.74% p.a.
$195 p.a.
Receive a yearly $200 Travel Credit and complimentary domestic and international travel insurance, plus 0% p.a. for 12 months on balance transfers.
Bankwest Qantas World Mastercard
2.99% p.a. for 9 months
20.49% p.a.
$270 p.a.
Earn uncapped Qantas Points per $1 spent on eligible purchases, pay 0% foreign transaction fees and receive complimentary travel insurance.
Qantas Premier Platinum
0% p.a. for 15 months
19.99% p.a.
$299 p.a.
Get 60,000 bonus Qantas points and a $300 Qantas Flight Voucher when you spend $4,000 in 90 days. Plus, complimentary lounge passes.

Compare up to 4 providers

Mandy’s Mauritian debt dive

Mandy found a great holiday package to fly to Mauritius with her friend. She paid for her flights and hotel accommodation with her credit card - a total of $4,000 for eight nights. While she was over there she spent a total of $2,000 in activities, food and shopping.

Mandy comes back home and realises that while she's tanned and relaxed, she has a bill of $6,000 on her credit card. Later on, she finds that a hefty sum of money has gone towards the foreign transaction fees and international ATM withdrawal fees she was charged, making her part of the 29% of Australians who come home after a trip to credit card shock.

Mandy budgets to pay off her trip within six months and puts $1,000 onto the balance each month. By the time her debt is paid off her total interest bill is $233.

Let's look at how much interest would be charged on different balances and over different time periods.

How much interest are you paying?

Elizabeth Barry

Elizabeth is an editor for finder.com.au specialising in personal finance and fintech. She enjoys reading PDSs so you don’t have to.

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Personal Loan Offers

Important Information*
HSBC Personal Loan

You'll receive a fixed rate between 9.5% p.a. and 15.99% p.a. based on your risk profile
An unsecured personal loan with a tailored, fixed rate where you can make additional and early repayments without penalty.

Citi Personal Loan Plus

You'll receive a variable rate between 8.99% p.a. and 17.99% p.a. (9.96% p.a. to 18.91% p.a. comparison rate) based on your risk profile
A credit limit up to $75,000 that you can continue to draw down over terms up to 5 years.

SocietyOne Unsecured Personal Loan

You'll receive a fixed rate between 7.5% p.a. and 19.99% p.a. based on your risk profile
A loan from $5,000 to use for a range of purposes. Benefit from no ongoing fees and no early repayment fee.

Latitude Personal Loan (Unsecured)

You'll receive a fixed rate between 13.99% p.a. and 29.99% p.a. based on your risk profile
Apply for what you need from $3,000 and use it for a range of purposes. Flexible repayments options.

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