Research shows many Australians are using their credit cards on daily essentials

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Australian Supermarket
A customer walks through the fruits and vegetables section at a supermarket in Sydney April 27, 2011. Reuters/Daniel Munoz

A number of Australians use their credit cards to make ends meet, with some being saddled with long-term debt, new research has found. Almost 40 percent of plastic holders have amassed debt paying for daily needs such as groceries and bills.

Comparison site also learned that over half of credit cardholders have had debt at one point. One in five is being saddled with long-term debt.

Mozo director Kirsty Lamont said that the poll for Australia’s credit card habits has found worrying trends. About 20 percent of cardholders carry credit card debt for three years or more. One in 10 of those who have long-term credit card debt carried it for over a decade.

Those who participated in the survey admitted that they simply could not yet afford to pay off their credit card debt. Thirty percent of respondents said they had other priorities with their money, 8 percent cited forgetfulness and another 8 percent said it was due to procrastination.

The surprising thing, according to Lamont, is that the majority of those who use plastic are not racking up debt on luxuries such as designer threads, lavish holidays or the latest gadgets. Many Aussies are using their credit cards for day to day essentials.

The site’s survey shows that big-ticket items such as electronic goods and holidays account for 37 percent of cardholder’s debt. Thirty-three percent of credit card users racked up on small luxuries such as entertainment, clothing and shoes.

“Australians putting their fixed expenses on credit is a concerning trend, and one which is likely to worsen in the near future if the cost of living continues to skyrocket and national incomes trail behind,” Lamont said. Based on official figures, Australians now owe $32 billion on credit cards.

Lamont stated that it is becoming apparent that some credit card holders are getting themselves into a trap they can’t afford to get out of. These people are reportedly being hit with interest rates of about a 17 percent mark all the while. His advice is to take control of finances and pay down debt as it would mean reaping savings in the long run.

The key, Lamont said, is to look at spending habits and create a plan to get rid of debt. The comparison site also recommends paying more than the minimum. Mozo compares over 1,800 products from more than 200 banking, insurance and energy providers.