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Independent

Credit card holders barely making dent in €2.9bn debt

CONSUMERS are struggling to get on top of credit card debt, new figures from the Central Bank show.

Card holders paid off a massive €811m on the more than 2.14 million personal credit cards in issue in April.

But despite the huge payments people have made on their plastic cards, they barely made a dent in the debt as the figures show that a further €800m of expenditure was put on the cards.

This means consumers paid back €11m more on credit cards than they spent in April. This is a much smaller amount than the €71m they managed to lop off card debt in March.

Overall, consumers collectively owe €2.89bn on cards.

When the total number of credit cards issued to consumers is divided by the total outstanding it works out at an average of €1,400 owed on each card.

The high level of new spending on credit cards means that the overall amount owed by consumers is up slightly on the amount outstanding a year earlier.

Personal finance experts said that high fees and charges and high interest rates on cards meant that consumers were failing to get to grips with the card debt.

Debt

Credit unions and debt advisers report people coming to them owing large amounts of money with these people typically owning two or three credit cards that they have "maxed out".

Households in financial difficulty have been found to be three times more likely to be only paying the minimum (which can be as low as 1pc with MBNA) on their card each month, according to the Law Reform Commission.

It will take 20 years to clear a €8,000 debt if you pay just 2.5pc of the outstanding balance every month.

In that time you will have paid €6,000 in interest alone, according to calculations by the National Consumer Agency.

Economist with Goodbody Stockbrokers Dermot O'Leary said the amount owed on credit cards at almost €3bn was small relative to the €118bn owed on residential mortgages.

"But the overall credit card debt figures hide the fact that there are many people at the margins who are in more financial stress because of the employment situation prevailing at the moment," he said.

Yesterday it was claimed that Halifax could make almost €7m on credit cards after it decided to close its operations here on June 18.

Halifax had 50,000 credit card customers before it announced it was closing and told customers that they should switch to another provider.

Balances

But Simon Moynihan of comparison website Bonkers.ie said customers that are not in a position to clear their balances can take advantage of Halifax's offer to cut interest rates from over 13pc to 10pc and repay just 3pc of their existing balance each month.

Halifax credit card holders with the national average balance of €1,300 that go with the 3pc payment deal will be paying Halifax €39 per month for 40 months -- that's almost three-and-a-half years.

By the time the last payment is made, customers could yield up to €7m in interest for the bank.

But a spokesman for Halifax dismissed the calculations as "utter rubbish". The calculations take no account of the fact that most card customers have switched to another bank, he added.

Meanwhile, yesterday's Central Bank figures showed that mortgage lending also fell in April.

The amount of money owed on residential mortgages fell by €348m during the month, and stood at €146.1bn at the end of April.

The annual rate of change in mortgage lending was --1.6pc last month. This was because more money was paid off on mortgages than was borrowed on new ones.

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