Bank of Greece (BoG) figures this week showed that the number of credit cards issued by Greek banks dropped to 2.6 million in 2016, down by roughly 100,000 compared with the previous year and by 300,000 compared to 2014.
Conversely, the year spending billed to credit cards increased by 7 percent, reaching 1,995 euros on an annual basis, up from 1,852 euros in 2015. This increase, according to the BoG, is due to the opportunity offered to cardholders to pay off income taxes through installment plans offered by banks via credit cards.
At the same time, the lower number of credit cards, in absolute terms, is linked with a negative economic climate in the country and consumers inability to pay off previous charge card debts. As a result, many cardholders simply stop using their cards or cancel the accounts, or banks cancel the cards when payments are delayed.
Arrears emanating from unpaid credit cards bills at the end of May 2017 reached 4.47 billion euros in Greece, down from 4.76 billion euros in December 2016 and 5.05 billion euros at the end of 2015.