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Tap and go - is it too easy to use our credit cards?

Tap and go – and then what?


Talk about hammering the plastic. In November 2016 Australia’s 16.7 million credit card accounts were used to make 226 million transactions with a total value of $27.8 billion. We are currently paying interest on $32.2 billion worth of credit card debt, running up an annual interest bill of over $5.6 billion (that’s $5,600,000,000!).


It’s not just the easy money that cards provide; it’s the easy form of delivery via “tap and go” that’s pushing our debt to extraordinary levels. The quicker the transaction, the less thought or planning required. Pay now and think about it (and deal with it) later.


Don’t become a statistic - here are some things to look out for plus a few tips.


Traps

• Over 40% of credit card spending goes on groceries and utilities. While this isn’t a problem if you pay off your card balance in full each month, if you’re paying interest just so you can buy the necessities of life, it’s a real danger sign that you may be living beyond your means.

• Most credit limits are well beyond cardholder needs. On average, Australians only use about a third of their available credit limits each month. However, by giving you a higher credit limit card issuers hope temptation will get the better of you. If that means you can’t pay off your entire balance each month you’ll end up paying them lots of interest. Also bear in mind that if you apply for a personal loan or mortgage in the future, lenders will look at your combined card limits, not just the balances. High credit limits will affect the size of loan approved. Reduce the temptation and reduce your limits to appropriate amounts.

• Beware the bonus card. Yet another credit card may come with a new mortgage. Look out for annual fees or other costs and make sure you understand what’s involved. If you don’t need it, cancel it.


Tips

• Financial institutions can only offer to increase your credit limit if you specifically ‘opt in’. This can be done in writing or over the phone. However, it’s prudent to withhold this permission to keep your limit under control. You can always apply for a once-off increase if you really need to.

• Switch to a reloadable (pre-paid) credit card. Like a debit card it means you are using your own money with the added advantages that you can pre-set a limit on your spending and reduce the risks associated with buying online. Reloadable cards are available from banks, other financial institutions and major retailers.

• If you sign up for a new card for a 12-month interest-free purchase, pay it off in the first year then cancel the card before the renewal fee is automatically charged. There is no point paying an annual fee if you’re not going to use the card.


And a myth Many people think that it is only lower income earners who are susceptible to the siren call of easy credit. But like the Sirens of Greek folklore themselves, it’s a myth. In fact, higher income earners also rack up huge balances on gold, platinum and diamond cards, and can experience real difficulty in paying them off. If your credit cards are more an enemy than a friend, a financial adviser will be able to suggest a range of solutions to get you back on track. Visit ASIC’s MoneySmart website www.moneysmart.gov.au for more tips.



Disclaimer

This information is current as at 15/03/17 This article has been prepared by Heart1Stop, a social media brand owned by Heart Mortgage Services and Heart Financial Advisers. The information contained in this article is an overview or summary only and it should not be considered a comprehensive statement on any matter nor relied upon as such. The views expressed here are not those of Heart1stop, Heart Mortgage Services, Heart Financial Advisers, shareholders, directors or staff and associated contractors and business associates. This article has been prepared without taking into account any person’s objectives, financial situation or needs. Because of this, you should, before acting on any information contained in this article, consider its appropriateness, having regard to your objectives, financial situation or needs. Any taxation information contained in this article is a general statement and should only be used as a guide. It does not constitute taxation advice and is based on current laws and their interpretation. Each individual’s situation may differ, and you should seek independent professional taxation advice on any taxation matters. While the information contained in this article may contain or be based on information obtained from sources believed to be reliable, it may not have been independently verified. Where information contained in this publication contains material provided directly by third parties it is given in good faith and has been derived from sources believed to be accurate at its issue date. It is not the intention of Heart1Stop or Heart Mortgage Services and Heart Financial Advisers that this publication be used as the primary source of readers’ information but as an adjunct to their own resources and training. To the maximum extent permitted by law: no guarantee, representation or warranty is given that any information or advice in this publication is complete, accurate, up to date or fit for any purpose; and no party of Heart1Stop or associated entities as mentioned is in any way liable to you (including for negligence) in respect of any reliance upon such information. This article may also contain links to websites operated by third parties ("Third Parties") who are not related to Heart1Stop. These links are provided for convenience only and do not represent any endorsement or approval by us.


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