Click clack, must have that: buying spree pushes plastic debt to $20bn

Shopping with credit cards hit a record level of $8.2 billion in December 2001, raising total card debt in Australia above $20 billion for the first time.

Cardholders made 77.7 million transactions for the month. The average spending limit passed $6,000 and the total number of cards on issue reached a new record of just under 9.7 million. Lisa Montgomery of described these figures, released by the Reserve Bank yesterday, as “staggering”.

The average credit card debt is now $2,073, up 12 per cent in a year, and the average card limit is now $6,062. The banks have been following a deliberate strategy to encourage consumers to increase their card limits and many people now have multiple cards.

Consumer groups warn that cardholders are at risk by having their limits raised. It's likely that the number of defaulters will grow, says Ms Montgomery. She added that personal debt in Australia is “getting out of control” and that the situation has worsened in the past couple of years.