More than five years after the global financial crisis erupted, Australian consumers are still being cautious with their credit cards.
They paid $284.4 billion off their credit cards in the year to May, $6.9 billion more than they spent, Reserve Bank figures show.
But credit card debt still rose thanks to interest costs and other charges.
Even so, the annual rise in debt of $375 million, or 2.8 per cent, to $49.99 billion was relatively slow.
It was almost exactly in line with average annual rise over the six years since the worst days of the crisis in 2008.
And that was not only a lot slower than the average growth of 13 per cent for the six years before the crisis but also well below growth in household incomes, so households are cutting their card debt relative to their incomes.
The figures also show consumers are being careful with their use of debit cards, taking steps to avoid transaction fees, particularly the hefty charges for using “foreign” ATMs.
The value of withdrawals from ATMs fell by 3.6 per cent, or $444 million, to $11.948 billion.
Two thirds of that fall was because card-holders shunned ATMs operated by banks other than their own.
At the same time, debit cards are being used increasingly for purchases – the value of debit card purchases was $18.15 billion in May, up by $1.29 billion, or eight per cent, from a year before.
Only a small fraction of that rise was accounted for by an increase in the “cash out” component of those transactions, which increased by $30 million or 1.9 per cent $1.56 billion though the year.