Australians are still clocking up record credit card debt but are also heeding the calls to watch their finances closely, with growth in card balances slowing sharply, new figures show.
Australians spent a record $17.69 billion on their credit cards in October, Reserve Bank of Australia data published on Thursday shows.
It is the first time total credit card spending exceeded $17 billion and eclipsed the previous best of $16.95 billion recorded in August this year.
At the same time, credit card owners made $18.80 billion in repayments in October – also a record and a 14.2 per cent increase from the previous month.
CommSec chief equities economist Craig James said the figures showed Australians were keeping their outstanding debt in check.
“It's clear that Australians are using their credit cards more often but more wisely,” Mr James said.
“The conventional wisdom is that consumers are drowning in a sea of credit card debt. But the evidence is totally to the contrary.”
The number of credit card purchases rose by 17.2 per cent to 123 million in October from 105 million in September.
The average credit card balance in October was $2993 unchanged from the previous four months and just below the $3014 recorded in June this year.
“Not only has the average credit balance barely budged in the past four months, it is growing at the slowest annual rate in two years,” Mr James said.
“Aussie consumers have clearly heeded calls to keep a close watch on their finances.
“Household balance sheets are in good shape. Not only are Aussie consumers managing their debt load, higher incomes are also helping.”
Australia's credit card balances rose by 0.31 per cent to $41.282 billion in October, from $41.156 billion in September.
There were 39,000 new credit and charge accounts issued in October, increasing the total 13.79 million, from 13.75 million in September.
The number of cash advances on credit and charge cards rose to 3.25 million from 2.81 million in September, as the value of advances increased to $1.109 billion from $958 million.