SOMETIMES it can seem that this little country of ours is run solely for the convenience of banks.
That is the hard-to-avoid conclusion from a survey showing many consumers are hooked on credit cards to pay for their day-to-day spending.
According to research commissioned by the Irish League of Credit Unions, almost one in three adults are forced to relying on the credit card to keep on top of the bills.
These people are spending close to €500 on cards each month as they desperately try to balance the books.
And many never get to pay down the card balance.
The average owed on each card is €2,500, with three out of 10 adults admitting they fall behind on their credit card bills, according to iReach research carried out for the Irish League of Credit Unions.
Some 2.6 million people have a credit card.
The survey findings are a real eye-opener. What is happening here is that more than a million people are juggling their finances every week and every day. They are using credit cards as a way to rob Peter to pay Paul.
We have not seen this sort of question asked in a survey before, so the findings present a revealing picture of how financially stretched many people are from pay cuts, job losses, and higher taxes and charges like the universal social charge and the property tax.
No doubt, if questions were asked of consumers about overdrafts, the outcome would be similarly frightening about the squeeze on ordinary people from the austerity drive of the last five years.
The State's cost of borrowing has fallen sharply, but there has been no break for the taxpayers who bailed out the banks and are now paying a very high price in terms of higher taxes and more expensive banking.
Who needs moneylenders when banks can help bankrupt a country, charge exorbitant rates on credit cards, fail to lend to home buyers and businesses, and force – through their lobbying of Government – An Post to cut its savings rates three times in one year?
The interest being paid by banks on savings has been cut now every month for a year and a half.
The other side of this is that the cost of using a credit card – which we now know so many depend on – has shot up since the economy blew up back in 2008.
Many of the interest rates on credit cards back then were a third of what they are now.
And the fees and charges imposed for those who breach the rules on their cards are farcically high.
We have not even mentioned the fees and charges now imposed by the big banks for operating a current account, something that used to be free.
Heads the bank wins, tails the bank wins.