Credit card issuance hits record 129 mil. in 2023

A sign indicating that credit card payments are accepted is displayed at a restaurant in a traditional market in Seoul, June 24. Yonhap

A record number of credit cards were issued last year despite increases in the cost of living and borrowing rates, data showed Thursday.

According to the data published by the Credit Finance Association of Korea, a total of 129.8 million cards were issued nationwide last year. The number was the highest since 1990 when relevant data started being compiled.

“Demand for credit cards is high when a country’s economy is undergoing hardship,” the association said, citing the previous record of 합법 122.1 million credit cards issued in 2011 when Korea’s GDP for the first time grew at a slower pace than the global economy.

It continued to fall to 923 million in 2014, but started picking up, rising to 113.7 million in 2020 when the economy was hit by the pandemic and rose to 129.8 million last year.

The outstanding balance of payment on credit card use amounted to 941.87 trillion won ($681 billion) as of end of 2023, marking the highest level since 1990.

Of the 941.8 trillion won, full payment accounted for 779.8 trillion won, while installment payment accounted for the remaining 162 trillion won.

In separate data from the Bank of Korea, the delinquency rate of credit card payments with banks was 3.4 percent as of February this year, the highest in more than nine years.

“Many people appear to be struggling to pay back the loans they took out from banks, and they can’t afford to pay back purchases made via credit card,” the association said.

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