Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Reaching for the plastic? Boy are you not alone

As memories of the financial crisis fade we're whipping out cards from our pockets like never before.

New banking figures show we put goods on credit cards an extraordinary 131 million times in July, more than in any previous July and up 3 per cent on the year before.

We are also feeling freer about letting our debts run, owing $47.8 billion on our cards in July, up 6.5 per cent, which works out at $3268 per card - up $159 per card from a year earlier.

By contrast in July 2009 with memories of the financial crisis still raw our outstanding balances were down $16 per card on the year before.

We are feeling much freer about using EFTPOS, pulling out our cards at supermarkets and the like 193 million times, up 15 per cent on the year before, more than offsetting a drop of 1.3 per cent in ATM withdrawals.

Although we are running more money through EFTPOS terminals than ever before - almost $13 billion in July - we are actually spending less per transaction; an average of $56.24 in July, down from $58.80.

And we are increasingly using EFTPOS terminals as banks... withdrawing a record $1.3 billion in July the average withdrawal per "cash out" transaction climbing from $58.20 to $60.90.

"These are tentatitive signs consumers are starting to spend once again," said Commonwealth Securities economist Savanth Sebastian. "The three rate hikes in March, April and May took took a toll on household budgets, but the conservatism is thawing. The Reserve Bank needs to allow it to bloom."

Lending figures also released yesterday show us more cautious when it comes to borrowing for houses, but increasingly carefree when it comes to borrowing for cars. We borrowed $847 million to buy cars in July, up 16 per cent on a year before. By contrast loans to buy houses were down 21 per cent with loans for alterations and additions down 19 per cent.

Loans for the construction of houses remain at 17-month lows and commercial construction loans have now slumped to seven year lows.

Businesses are expanding borrowing slowly with commercial loans up 4 per cent in the year to July after sliding 17 per cent in the year to the previous July.

The $30 billion lent to businesses in July remains less than half the $64 billion lent in July 2007 at the height of the previous mining boom.

What crisis?

Credit card outstanding balances

July 2009: $44.9 billion
July 2010: $47.8 billion up 6.5%

Balance per card

July 2009: $3109
July 2010: $3268 up 5.1%

New car loans

July 2009: $725 million
July 2010: $847 million up 16%

ATM withdrawals

July 2009: 72.2 million
July 2010: 71.2 million down 1.3%

EFTPOS transactions

July 2009: 168 million
July 2010: 193 million up 15%

Published in today's SMH and Age

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. Sunday dollars+cents: Unrealistically optimistic with credit cards

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