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Admin exec ended up with 6 credit cards

If there is one lesson Aidah, 36, has learnt, it would be how credit card bills can snowball even if one does not spend on big-ticket items.

The part-time administrative executive and her husband had to seek help from Credit Counselling Singapore (CCS) last year for a credit card debt of $70,000.

Her real name is withheld to protect her identity.

"We didn't keep track of our bills and it just kept growing unknowingly," Aidah said.

"Once you have the cards, you spend on things you don't need. That was our biggest mistake."

It all started with a simple application for a credit card about three years ago.

The family-of-four started dining out more often and bought things that they did not need.

"I thought we could make it even though we weren't using our own cash. It wasn't really luxury items that we bought but more of eating better food more often at mid-range restaurants," said Aidah.

"It got too frequent and bills started to accumulate."

Servicing their car loan, and paying for petrol and maintenance added to their expenditure.

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Aidah realised the size of her credit card debt only when she had to take no-pay leave about two years ago to care for her sickly son, who is now eight.

She has another seven-year-old son.

"Usually, most of my salary goes to the minimum payment of my bills. I realised I had accumulated too much only when I was on leave," Aidah said.

She added that the family depended on her husband's salary, which she did not disclose to TNP.

When she reached the maximum limit on one credit card, she then applied for a card from a different bank to try to pay off her debt.

Aidah ended up with six credit cards from different banks, which hounded her to pay up every day.

"I was very, very stressed. There were times when I wished I could hide my phone so I didn't have to deal with those phone calls," she said quietly.

With the snowballing debt, she added that she stopped forking out money for her parents monthly.

Aidah and her husband considered borrowing from moneylenders or even declaring themselves bankrupt. One of the banks who called her then pointed her to CCS as a way out.

It would be another six to seven years before the debt is fully repaid but Aidah and her husband are grateful for the helping hand.

"I felt relieved that some organisation can help us, rather than we sit down and try to think of solutions. Sometimes, banks don't bother to listen to your problems," she said.

"With CCS, they actually listened and gave suggestions to our problems."

For Aidah, who earns about $1,900 a month, her debt of $70,000 is 36 times her monthly income.

So even under the relaxed rules on the borrowing limit, she will not be able to borrow any money from June 1.

We didn't keep track of our bills and it just kept growing unknowingly. Once you have the cards, you spend on things you don't need. That was our biggest mistake.

- Aidah, part-time administrative executive