| 2.6°C Dublin

Banks blasted as credit card debts hit €23m in year

Banks have been accused of being irresponsible in issuing credit cards as they racked up losses of almost €23m in the year.

More than €1,280 is owed on each of the 2.3 million credit cards in Ireland as consumers are unable to pay their bills.

This is a massive 52pc hike on the average amount owed in 2007.

It would take a single person 25 years to pay €5,000 off their bill, if they are only making minimum repayments.

And they could end up paying as much as €7,958 in interest on this amount, new research has found.

Banks have been slammed for not considering if the credit card applicant was eligible for the card and would be able to make the repayments.

Analysts have said that if the amount of interest charged per card was reduced to 15pc and a consumer could increase their monthly payments by an additional 1pc, the final amount could fall by more than €5,000.

Chief executive of the Credit Union Development Association Kevin Johnson said the banks have nurtured a poor credit attitude among the Irish public by encouraging credit cards regardless of financial stability.

"This has resulted in not only thousands of people running up huge credit card bills, which they are unable to repay, but it has also culminated in a culture whereby people purchase items and a service they cannot afford simply because they can 'stick it on their credit card' and worry about payment later," he said.

High interest rates and penalty charges are making it difficult for card holders to reduce the overall amount owed, although there are signs lately that consumers are beginning to get to grips with their mountain of credit card debt.

The latest Central Bank private sector credit data outlined that personal lending fell by 2.8pc last year and included in this was a €1bn year-on-year fall in non-mortgage related lending.

A number of credit unions throughout the country now offer credit card elimination or repayment initiatives which aim to reduce and eventually clear credit card debt through a series of personal loan payments.

Mr Johnson has pointed out that use of a credit card is habitual but that the credit unions offering the elimination service have found that if people can break the spending splurge habit, they are less likely to run up huge credit card debts again in the future.

Banks made a loss of almost €10 on every credit card in the country as a result of defaults, according to a survey carried out by research group Lafferty.

But it said interest rates here are among the lowest in the world, averaging 15pc here against 80pc in Brazil and 70pc in Turkey.