Canadians have been leaning on their credit cards more

The pandemic has led to two fifths of adults relying on their cards with some holding hefty balances

Canadians have been leaning on their credit cards more
Steve Randall

Millions of Canadians are holding balances on one of the most expensive credit options and many can’t see a way to pay down the debt.

Despite many people having cut back spending and boosted their savings, credit card use has escalated in the past year as households have suffered from reduced income during the pandemic.

According to a new study from, two fifths of Canadians with at least one credit card have used their cards more in the past year and a similar share admits feeling stressed about their card debt.

That equates to around 10 million Canadian adults feeling unhappy about the new debt they have incurred due to the crisis.

Balances vary of course, but more than half say they owe their card issuer every month with 11% carrying a balance of at least $5,000 across all their cards.

Younger Canadians in debt

There is little difference in credit card use by gender, but age certainly appears to be a factor.

While an average 48% of older Canadians (Gen X and Boomers) said they cleared their credit card balance each month, that falls to 36% among younger Canadians (Millennials and Gen Zs).

There is also disparity between provinces with Albertans feeling the most stressed about their card debt and least likely to be paying off balances monthly.

“Our research shows younger Canadians, lower income earners, and Canadians in specific provinces, are particularly at risk of running up a balance and then not paying it off,” commented’s Nicole Knight.

The research tallies with a report from TransUnion at the end of 2020 which showed more than half of respondents were most concerned about paying their credit card bills.

Taking action?

What are Canadians doing about their credit card debt?

The survey found that about one in five cardholders are considering taking the action needed to conquer their pandemic debt by switching to a balance transfer card but the same percentage said they have never heard of a balance transfer card.