Kiwis' personal debt climbing due to spend on essentials

Source: 1News

People's personal debt is racking up as they spend more on essentials, Consumer NZ says.

Trying to get an understanding of how people are faring with the rising cost of living, the organisation looked at debt overall - buy now, pay later (BNPL) services, credit cards and overdrafts.

Consumer NZ told Breakfast 28% of people with personal debt say they're incurring most of it on essential expenses. This is a 5% "creep" from last year.

The organisation also found one in five Kiwis have a BNPL account and one in four of them are putting those purchases on a credit card.

READ MORE: Buy-now-pay-later users struggle as economy tightens

Consumer NZ also found one in 10 New Zealanders are living beyond their means.

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People are primarily using a credit card for essential expenses such as bills, groceries and fuel, the organisation said. This trumps unexpected expenses.

BNPL services include Afterpay, Humm, Laybuy, Genoapay and Zip. Providers offer short-term, interest-free loans which people can use to buy anything from groceries to clothes to electronics.

While borrowers do not pay interest if things go to plan, late fees are added when payments are missed.

Consumer NZ's Gemma Rasmussen said the findings highlight a lot of people are struggling to make ends meet.

She also said 40% of people say they have no savings or are "deeply anxious" about how much savings they have in the bank.

With BNPL services unregulated, Rasmussen continued calls for them to be regulated under the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act (CCCFA).

The Government is currently reviewing whether it needs to regulate BNPL services, but some lending rules under the CCCFA are being loosened.

Updated regulations and a new responsible lending code come into effect on Thursday.