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Credit Card Statistics

Report Highlights:

  • 44% of Australians are using less cash than before the pandemic started.
  • Only 27% of purchases are made with cash.
  • 68% of Australians have at least one card.
  • 63% of purchases are made with a card.
  • 10% of Australians use payment instalment systems.

credit card statistics australia

The cash vs. card debate has been ongoing in Australia for quite a while. And, with Australia aiming to be one of the first completely cashless countries in the world, the discussion has ramped up even further. The increase in popularity of cards, particularly during the pandemic has seemed to edge cash out.

Nevertheless, completely eschewing cash in favour of cards isn’t as easy as anyone – including the Australian government – would have imagined. The statistics and numbers paint a clearer picture of the balance of cash and credit within the country.

Card Usage in Australia

There has been a surge in popularity in card usage within the country. Factors such as the global pandemic and the resulting health concerns have pushed people toward card transactions even more. However, there is more to appreciate in the role that cards play among Australian consumers and their financial position.

  • 68% of Australians have at least one card.
  • The average credit card balance is $2,868.
  • The average balance incurring interest is $1,523.
  • 21% of individuals between 18 and 34 were likely to have a second card.
  • The total expenditure via cards in 2019 was $333,721,838,132.
  • In total, 2,985,010,219 purchases were made via cards.
  • The average balance per card in 2019 was $3,264.
  • By purchase volume, Commonwealth Bank was the largest credit card issuer with USD 51.56 billion.
  • In 2019, Cards were used for 63% of purchases.
  • Around 50% of card transactions are made through contactless payments.
  • Cards are utilised in 52% of online transactions.
  • Total online sales via cards amount to $17.2 billion.
  • 5% of consumers were struggling with debt.
  • Credit card debt totalled $45 billion, with $31.7 billion being a result of interest.
  • Credit card companies charged $1.5 billion overall in fees.
  • In 2017, card fraud was up 13.9%, totalling $ 3 million.
  • By 2019, credit card use dropped by 8% over 12 months.
  • Credit card debt as a result of interest dropped by 10% during the same time period.
  • 45% of millennials have less credit debt than older generations.

Credit Cards vs. Debit Cards

Credit cards and debit cards often get lumped together when usage is considered. Despite this, there are many discrepancies between the cards, including the numbers in which they are issued and how they are used.

  • There are 13,668,490 credit cards in circulation.
  • There are 34,868,501 debit cards in circulation.
  • Debit cards have a higher circulation at 1.9 per capita when compared to credit cards at 0.68 per capita.
  • Around 66% of people under the age of 40 primarily use debit cards.
  • About 30% of online transactions are made via debit cards.
  • In 2019, Debit cards were used for 44% of purchases, while credit cards were used for 19% of transactions.
  • At POS, 29% of consumers will use debit cards, while 20% of purchases are made with credit cards.
  • It is predicted that by 2022, 30% of POS purchases will be made with a debit card and 22% with a credit card.
  • The average charge for credit cards was $103.49.
  • The average debit card charge was $48.02.

Reasons for Credit Card Use Decline

It is clear from the above sections that credit card use is on the decline, particularly among millennials. This is a departure from previous years and generations. There are several factors that have resulted in this current and future trend regarding credit cards.

  • 90% of millenials avoid credit cards as a matter of choice.
  • 10% are unable to be approved for a credit card.
  • 18% of millennials are concerned with accumulating credit card debt.
  • 22% of the generation want to avoid fees and interest rates associated with credit cards.
  • 21% wish to avoid spending beyond their means.
  • 24% would rather use their own money to make purchases and payments.

Cash Usage in Australia

On the surface, cash use can appear on the decline. Cash isn’t used as much for purchases and fewer people are making physical withdrawals. Despite this, cash continues to be an important and persistent force within the Australian economy.

  • Around $80 billion in cash is in circulation daily.
  • 75% of this is held as wealth by Australians, with only 25% being used for buying and selling.
  • In 2018, the average person visited the ATM 28 times a year, which was down from 40 visits per year in 2008.
  • In 2020, there were27, 870 ATMS in the country, a 5.03% decrease from the previous year.
  • 35% less cash is being withdrawn from ATMs.
  • However, the quantity of cash in the Australian economy is at a 50-year per capita high.
  • For every Australian, there are thirty $50 and fourteen $100 notes in existence.
  • In 2019, just 27% of payments were made via cash.
  • However in 2018, at Point of Sale, 35% of consumers used cash, making it the most popular payment method.
  • It is predicted that cash use at POS will drop to 17% by 2022.
  • Since the pandemic, 44% of Australians state that they are using less cash than before.
  • Individuals under the age of 40 are least likely to use cash with only 15% of transactions made using cash.
  • Individuals over 65 use cash for up to 50% of their purchases.
  • When the bill is $10 or less, 45% of people will use cash.
  • 15% of consumers prefer using cash to help with budgeting purposes.
  • In 2019, around 25% of people carried no cash in their wallets.
  • The average person carried about $45 in their wallet.
  • However, 40% of people stated that they hold onto cash outside their wallets.
  • Cash payments make up 7% of online sales.
  • It is estimated that around $50 billion is lost to the black economy each year.

Cards vs. Other Payment Methods

There are a growing number of payment methods in Australia. This includes mobile payments, third party online systems, and contactless payments. It is important to appreciate how the numbers differ when compared to card usage.

  • 4% of purchases were made via online payment systems.
  • Bank transfers make up 13% of online sales.
  • 22% of online sales are made via digital wallets.
  • In 2019, around 10% of consumers used contactless mobile payment systems.
  • Almost 1 in 5 people use contactless mobile payment systems.
  • 75% of Australians claim to continue to use contactless payment methods once the pandemic was over.
  • It is estimated that e-commerce fraud exists for 0.075% of online transactions.
  • Banks are charging retailers around $1000 to provide contactless payments.
  • In 2019, there were 31 million buy now pay later transactions, a 90% increase from the previous year.
  • It is estimated that about 10% of Australians use instalment payments.
  • 60% of buy now pay later users are between the age of 18 and 34.
  • 57% of buy now pay later customers use the service to budget their spending.
  • Around 44% of instalment payment users make less than $40,000 a year.
  • 20% of buy now pay later customer missed payments, resulting in missed fee revenue of $43 million.

This is the current status of cash vs. card in Australia. It is clear that cash usage is on the decline, but it will be quite a while before Australians cease to use cash completely. This is because physical currency continues to have significance and benefits beyond digital payment methods.

Card usage is on the rise, with debit cards being the most popular avenue, particularly among younger generations. Credit card usage isn’t as popular as it once was as younger generations have greater fear of debt accumulation.

What is at the forefront of Australian payment methods, though, is buy now pay later systems. An increasing number of people – particularly younger individuals – are utilising it as an alternative to other payment methods. This system makes it easier for cash-strapped individuals to pay off purchases without accruing interest with credit cards.


[1] Business Insider AU, Cash Was Predicted to be Dead in Australia as Early As 2022, But There Are Plenty of Reasons Why It Will be King for a While Yet

[2] The New Daily, Cash On Its Way Out as Coronavirus Accelerates Shift Towards Digital Payments

[3] JP Morgan, E-Commerce Payment Trends: Australia

[4] Reserve Bank of Australia, Consumer Payment Behaviour in Australia

[5] Finder, Australian Credit Card and Debit Card Statistics 2020

[6] Yahoo Finance AU, Here’s Why Australia Shouldn’t Go Completely Cashless

[7] Financial Review, Will Covid-19 Kill Cash in Australia?

[8] Statista, Leading Credit Card Issuers in Australia in 2015 by Purchase Volume

[9] ABC News AU, Credit Card Users Struggling Under Mountain Of Debt That May Never Be Repaid, ASIC Report Shows

[10] ASIC, 20-280MR ASIC Releases Latest Data on Buy Now Pay Later Industry

[11] The Guardian AU, ‘It’s Like the Wild West’: Is the Latest Buy Now Pay Later Service Just Rebranded Debt?

[12] Savings.com AU, Why Buy Now, Pay Later Is So Popular With Millennials

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