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Credit Card Crunch

An estimated 10.3 million Canadians are stressed about their pandemic credit card debt.

While the new year is often associated with credit card debt regret – this year is different than your typical holiday spending hangover. In fact, new research from global comparison site finder.com shows more than two fifths of Canadians who have one or more credit cards reported using their card either more or much more than usual in 2020.

And it seems all that extra use is taking its toll. Roughly the same number of Canadians say they feel stressed about the credit card debt they racked up last year. That’s a whopping 10.3 million Canadians with a case of debt stress.

So how much debt have Canadians racked up throughout the pandemic? And who is willing to do something about it? Let’s dig into the stats.

Who was using credit to fill the gap in 2020?

Gender

  • Men and women were equally as likely to lean on their credit card either more or much more (42%) in 2020.

Age

    • Age is one of the biggest factors for who used their credit card the most in 2020. With Canada’s youngest adults using it nearly twice as much as their older counterparts.
    • More than half (58%) of those in generation Z used their credit card more or much more often. Nearly half (49%) of millennials were using it more or much more often. Just 37% of those in generation X and only 26% of boomers used their credit card more or much more in 2020.

    Relationship status

    • People in common law partnerships were the most likely to use their credit card more or much more in 2020 at 44%, followed closely by singles at 43%.
    • Those separated, divorced or married were slightly less likely to use their credit card more or much more during 2020 at 40% each.

    Income

    • Nearly half (44% average) of Canada’s low to middle income earners (from less than $20,000 to $79,999) were using their credit card either more or much more often during the pandemic as compared to about one-third (average 34%) of Canada’s higher income ($80,000+) earners.

    Region

    • With the exception of B.C., Canada’s most densely populated provinces leaned heavily on their credit cards in 2020. Nearly half of Albertans (46%) Quebecers (45%) and Ontarians (41%) used their credit card more or much more in 2020.

    Pandemic putting Canadians in the red?

    Not only are people using their cards more, but it seems the majority of cardholders are also struggling to pay off their debt. Instead, they’re carrying a balance, which means they are paying interest on their debt every month. One strategy is to simply pay the minimum payment. However, if you take your sweet time paying down your debt, you could end up paying up to double the original principal amount in interest payments.

    A typical credit card interest rate in Canada is 20%. Credit card interest rates are high compared to other types of personal loans or credit products. To combat paying high interest, Canadians must come up with strategies to pay off any balance faster. A great way to do this is to consolidate debt to get out of the red and end the vicious cycle.

    Who ran up their balance in 2020?

    Gender

    • Women were nearly equal to men when it came to those carrying a balance (59% vs 58%).

    Age

    • There is a strong correlation between the younger generations using their credit card more and running up a balance. An average of just 36% of generation Z and millennials are paying off their credit card each month. This is compared to nearly half (average of 49%) of generation X and boomers.

    Relationship status

    • Those who are separated or divorced are most likely to carry a balance greater than $5,000, with 14% of people in this group running up a debt each month. Singles are least likely to carry a balance, with just under 10% of people without a romantic partner carrying a high balance.
    • They’re also one of the least likely groups to carry a balance at all, with 58% of singles carrying a balance. This compared to 66% of people in a common law partnership and 61% of people who are divorced or separated.

    Income

    • Interestingly, Canadians on both the top end of the earning scale and the bottom end are most likely to pay off their full credit card balance each month. More than half of those (53%) making 120k and over pay off their balance each month, while 46% of Canada’s lowest income earners do the same.

    Region

    • Manitobans are most diligent about paying off their monthly balance at 61%, followed by British Columbians at 48% and Ontarians at 43%.
      Albertans are the Canadians most likely to be stuck paying interest – less than one-third (31%) pay off their balance each month.
    • Followed by Quebecers (38%) and Nova Scotians (40%), where about two in five pay their balance in full.

    Debt Drama

    Being in debt can be incredibly stressful. While some types of debt, such as mortgages, are considered good debt, consistently carrying a balance on your credit card is typically considered bad debt. Bad debt isn’t helping you meet your financial goals and may even hinder you.

    Credit cards tend to have high interest rates (typically about 20%). Allowing the card’s balance to balloon can give you a serious case of debt stress. In fact, about two in five Canadian cardholders (39%) say they feel stressed about the credit card debt they incurred in 2020.

    This level of stress makes sense when you consider the exact same percentage of credit card holders (39%) carry a balance of anywhere from $500 to $10,000 plus.

    The Demographics of Debt Stress

    Gender

    • Women are far more likely to be nervous about credit card debt with nearly half (44%) of them stressed out as compared to about one-third of men (35%).

    Age

    • Nearly half (48%) of millennials are stressed about the credit card debt they incurred in 2020, followed closely by Canada’s youngest adults, generation Z, at 41%. It seems the older you get, the less stressed you are about credit card debt, with just 36% of generation X and 24% of boomers claiming debt stress.

    Relationship status

    • Tied for most stressed about their debt are the separated or divorced or those in a common law relationship at 43% each, followed closely by 40% of singles. Married people are feeling the least debt stress at 38%.

    Income

    • The most stressed (46%) about their credit card debt are those who have a personal income of $40,000 to $59,000.
    • Compare this to just 29% of Canada’s highest earners ($120,000 and over), the least stressed of all income brackets.

    Region

    • Most stressed are the Prairie Provinces, with half of Albertans (50%) feeling the most debt stress, followed closely by 43% of Manitobans. Nova Scotians are just slightly less stressed (40%), followed by Ontarians (39%) and Quebecers (36%).
    • Canada’s West Coasters (33% of British Columbians) are least stressed about credit card debt.

    Back to Black

    Once you have decided to get out of the red and back into the black, balance transfer credit cards are an excellent way to take a set amount of time (typically six to ten months) to pay down any existing debt from other cards or loans with very low introductory rates.

    Some Canadians have already made the switch to a balance transfer credit card. In fact, more than 2.6 million Canadians already have one and are paying down their debts with it.

    Almost twice as many, or nearly 5 million Canadians, said they would switch to a balance transfer credit card. Interestingly, there are about 4.6 million Canadians who don’t even know there is an option that could save them hundreds or even thousands of dollars in interest payments.

    Turns out most credit card users (32%) are happy with their existing card and nearly a quarter (22%) say they pay off their balance each month.

    Exactly one in ten credit card holders has already made the switch to a balance transfer credit card. While 18% have either never heard of a balance transfer credit card or do know and would consider it as an option.

    If you use a credit card and count yourself among the nearly 5 million people who are already considering making the switch or you just need to learn more about balance transfer cards and compare options, check out our balance transfer credit card guide for more information.
    Almost 5 million Canadians have found themselves suddenly single following the pandemic, according to recent research. Finder asked Canadians how their love lives have been impacted since the coronavirus first hit – everything from break-up stats to COVID quirks and major stresses, and the results are downright shocking. The research uncovered that since the start of the pandemic 15% or 4,673,565 Canadians have experienced a relationship break-up of some kind.

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