Canadian consumers reeling from excessive credit card debt
March 27, 2012
A majority of Canadians are worried about their personal debt levels, reflecting the fragile state of the nation's economic recovery and the importance of consumer spending in driving growth. According to a survey released this week by rate comparison service RateSupermarket.ca, nearly two-thirds of surveyed Canadians - 60.1 percent - are not comfortable with their current debt levels.
Unlike in the U.S., where consumer debt has been tied most critically to home mortgages and student loans, Canadians are most worried about credit card debt. The survey of nearly 3,000 consumers across the country found 38.8 percent of respondents cite credit card balances as their chief debt-related concern.
Interestingly, though, Canadians do not seem to be racking up much debt on lavish products and services that they later regret, but on standard purchases, such as clothing, groceries and restaurant outings.
"We found that one of the largest contributors to credit card debt seems to be impulse purchases of small items or food and entertainment, which, left to accumulate interest, can ultimately lead to a huge mountain of debt," said Kelvin Mangaroo, president of RateSupermarket.ca.
One-third of respondents admitted they have gone into debt over something that they later regretted, and many cited cars and bad investments as major "debt regrets," but most agree that have found themselves in financial trouble because of frequent, mindless spending on clothing, restaurants, gifts, holidays and other common purchases.
"We're not seeing people overspending on luxury or big-ticket items," Mangaroo added. "Rather, it's a slow and steady pattern of small purchases combined with smaller credit card payments that are putting a huge number of Canadians into debt."
Consumers also seem to believe their debt is not as severe as it is. More than half of respondents - 53 percent - believe they have less debt than the average Canadian, and 30.7 percent say their debt is average while only 16.3 percent believe their debt is higher than average.
Canadian small businesses have also been struggling with an adverse credit market, although for different reasons. Since the recession, many banks and private lenders have tightened their credit policies, complicating financial prospects for average small ventures.