The Australian credit card industry could be said to be in a state of flux. The global economic crisis has caused many people to rethink their approach to, and relationship with, credit in general, and credit cards in particular.
Many people have been forced to start living within their means as the luxury of spending on credit has taken second place to the need to keep a roof over their head and food on their plate.
The increased advertising you may have seen is a sign that credit card issuers are actively seeking new customers. In past years, credit cards were a must-have item, and issuers did not need to be so proactive or fiercely competitive. Now, debit cards are becoming increasingly more popular, and the Australian credit card industry is responding accordingly.
The figures confirm their need to worry. Between July 2008 and July 2009, credit card usage rose by just 3%, which equated to 1.7% in dollar value. Debit card usage over the same period shot up 32.5%, equating to 31.3% in dollar value. It is because a debit card only taps the available resources of your bank account, they prevent debt from building up and remove the temptation to make that extra unaffordable purchase made possible with a credit card.
However, there may be another reason why the Australian credit card industry is so keen on drumming up new business. That’s because the new business they are seeking will not last indefinitely, and this is evidenced in other parts of the world. A recent study compared the credit card industries in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Ireland, and found that Australia is the only market where any new business is at all possible. The other countries are already saturated. It was the same situation with mobile phones, when there was an incredible market at first, and now there are so many mobile phones out there that the main focus is repeat business, or snatching business from other issuers.
In effect, this makes it a buyer’s market, and this is reflected in the offers currently being advertised. Whereas credit cards used to be more of an either/or proposition, where one great feature was usually balanced by a “hit” elsewhere, many cards are now offering a range of attractive features.
To get a better idea of customer reactions to the Australian credit card industry, we can take a look at some of the findings of this year’s Australian Consumer Credit Card & Banking Survey:
- 58.8% only applied to their existing bank for a credit card, possibly because …
- 26.7% wanted to know their application would be accepted, and …
- 72.7% were happy or very happy with the service their bank provided
- 4.5% applied for the first offer they saw
- Only 6% used comparison websites, which is odd considering ..
- Getting the *best deal was cited as the most important consideration when choosing a credit card
- 44.5% had not switched their credit card for 11 years or more
- 43.4% had two credit cards or more
- Over 50% were happy with their current card
- Nearly 80% thought it unfair that Reserve Bank interest rate cuts were not reflected in credit card rates
- 57% thought the Australian Government should create a ‘people’s bank’
- 23% thought a 0% balance transfer facility was important, but 38.3% weren’t bothered
- 50.5% said they rarely had an unpaid debt on their card
- 13.9% had “a fair bit” of debt
- 10% only pay the minimum amount each month
- 13.9% considered card colour and branding important. (Probably those with the “fair bit” of debt.)
*Best Low Interest Card
The St.George Vertigo offers a low interest rate on balance transfers and purchases with a low annual fee.
- $55 p.a. annual fee
- 1% p.a. for 12 months (reverts to 13.24% p.a.) on purchases
- 0% p.a. for 18 months on balance transfers
- Cash Advance Rate of 21.49% p.a.
- Up to 55 days interest free