Credit Card Dependency Soars as South Africans Struggle to Survive

Image - Credit Card Dependency Soars as South Africans Struggle to Survive

South Africans have faced a challenging year dealing with sluggish economic growth, limited consumer spending power, and unprecedented hikes in fuel prices that disrupt daily life, putting extra pressure on individuals’ and businesses’ finances.

This is according to Charnel Collins, the CEO of National Debt Advisors, who said that as the cost of living continues to rise and financial pressures mount, many individuals and households have turned to credit cards as a means of managing day-to-day expenses and dealing with unexpected financial burdens.

The latest McKinsey Global Consumer Sentiment Survey revealed that 87% of consumers describe their current economic situation as stretched, leading 61% to cut back on spending. This belt-tightening has led to 32% of shoppers substituting branded products with more affordable alternatives.

Moreover, the recent assessment of the broad money supply and credit extension in South Africa has revealed that several financial services providers have observed a significant rise in credit impairments such as late payments, defaults, bankruptcies, and other adverse financial events that negatively impact someone’s credit score and creditworthiness.

Woolworths Financial Services saw a concerning 7.3% impairment rate in the year leading up to June 2023. Meanwhile, Nedbank, a major South African bank, witnessed a staggering 57% increase in credit impairments in the first half of 2023. As for Standard Bank, their overall credit loss ratio shot up to 97 basis points, hitting the upper end of their typical range, which usually spans from 70 to 100 basis points.

Collins said this growing dependence on credit cards highlights the need for individuals to realise the urgency of their financial situation and take proactive steps to regain control over their finances.

“The rise in credit card dependency is deeply concerning and mirrors the financial struggles that many South Africans are currently facing. It’s crucial for individuals to recognise that there are steps they can take to regain control of their finances and break free from the cycle of debt,” said Collins.

She offered the following tips for using credit cards wisely:

  • Shop Smart: Before applying for a credit card, do your homework. Compare interest rates and fees, like annual fees and foreign transaction fees, as these must be disclosed by law. Remember that each credit card application results in a hard inquiry on your credit report, which can impact your credit score, so apply selectively.
  • Ensure Timely Payments: To avoid paying interest, pay your credit card bill in full and on time. Most credit cards offer a grace period, typically a minimum of 21 days from the end of a billing cycle to the due date, during which you won’t be charged interest if you pay in full by the due date. Sign up for an automatic pay method to ensure you never miss a payment.
  • Manage Credit Utilisation: Aim to use no more than 30% of your credit limit (some recommend staying below 10%) to maintain a good credit score. As your credit limit increases over time, pay attention to this rate and consider requesting a credit limit increase if you won’t overspend.
  • Use Your Credit Card: Don’t keep a zero balance on your credit card; lenders and issuers want to see responsible credit use. While keeping your credit utilisation below 30%, make purchases on your card to demonstrate responsible usage.
  • Think Twice Before Cancelling: Be cautious about cancelling your first credit card, especially if it’s your oldest one. It can impact your credit history and average account age, potentially harming your credit score. Before closing a credit card account, assess the consequences, such as annual fees or high-interest rates.
  • Seek Professional Help: If you are drowning in debt, don’t hesitate to seek assistance from experts like National Debt Advisors. They have the knowledge and tools to help you navigate your financial challenges.

Collins said breaking free from the relentless cycle of debt starts with seeking professional advice and exploring options like debt counselling through National Debt Advisors, which can provide tailored solutions to help individuals manage and eventually overcome their debt challenges. “Knowing when to ask for help is a crucial step towards achieving financial stability and peace of mind in these challenging times,” said Collins.

Submit your details here to sign up with National Debt Advisors today and embark on your journey to financial freedom. Our expert team is here to guide you every step of the way.

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