The credit card trap
Credit card debt is now sitting at around $35 billion dollars in Australia, which is an interest bill of over $6 billion each year.
This represents more than $4,680 of credit card debt per card holder in Australia, with younger Australians getting into the trap of spending too much and not being able to pay it off each month.
This is an extraordinary level of credit card debt owed by ordinary Australians and is an excellent reminder of how expensive credit cards can be if not managed properly.
How long will the debt last?
If you owed the average $4680 on your card and the credit provider required you to pay the minimum monthly payment, at an interest rate of 17 per cent, it would take you 28 years to pay it off. This is nearly as long as paying off a mortgage. If that sounds incredulous, over this time you would repay a total of more than $14,000 – nearly an extra $10,000 in interest!
Don’t just pay the minimum
If instead of only paying the minimum, you paid a monthly amount of $250 in this example, you would knock more than 26 years off your debt and paying it all off in two years, which would save you $9000 in interest.
Many people think they will be able to control their credit card debt, but as you can see, when it comes to compounding interest, a small balance can quickly get out of hand.
If you have a credit card debt around the average Australian balance and are struggling to get on top of it, acting early will save you thousands of dollars – not to mention your credit rating.
Here are my top 10 tips on credit cards:
- Stop adding more debt to your credit card, keep the card at home as opposed to your wallet to avoid using it.
- Pay more than the minimum repayment – even an extra $50 per month will make a big difference.
- Set up a direct debit to pay a fixed amount off your credit card balance each payday.
- If you have more than one card, pay off the one with the highest interest rate first.
- If you have an ongoing balance, consider moving your credit card balance to a 0 per cent interest rate credit card. These are sometimes offered as a three or six month interest free period but check the conditions as you usually have to make minimum repayments otherwise you don’t get the interest free benefits.
- Reduce your credit card limit to only what you can pay off in full each month.
- Consider a debit card instead of a credit card. That way you are always spending money that you have, as opposed to using the bank’s money.
- Don’t be tempted to increase your credit limit if the bank offers you an increase. Stick to what you can afford.
- Always check the bottom of your statement when you receive it to ensure there is no interest. You may have missed the payment by a day or didn’t pay the full amount off in time, which will means you will start paying interest.
- Cash is king – one of the best ways to not get into credit card debt is to stick to using cash. And remember the golden rule: Save before you spend – don’t spend before you save.
Olivia Maragna is the co-founder of Aspire Retire Financial Services and has been recently named the Australian Adviser of the Year. Olivia’s advice is general in nature and readers should seek their own professional advice before making any financial decisions.
Send your finance questions to Olivia at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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