In what could be worrying news for card issuers in Australia, new survey data suggest about 32% of the country’s households last year fell behind financially, which affected their credit card use.

The results were part of the ING Direct Financial Wellbeing Index, which Australia-based Galaxy Research Co. Ltd. compiled based on the online responses of 1,013 households between Jan. 5 and Jan. 10 this year.

The quarterly index rates household comfort levels across six key aspects of personal financial well-being, including credit card and mortgage debt, savings, investments, household income and ability to pay bills.

In 2011, 24% of all respondents said paying down most of credit card debt was part of their plan to improve their financial situation, while another 9% said they closed out credit cards to do so.

The research also revealed that, along with a focus on saving, the trend in which households are “deleveraging” debt continued, as 17% of respondents said no longer have a credit card compared with 11% who did in the first quarter last year.

More 38% of the respondents increased their household savings in 2011, while a similar percentage spent less using cash and credit cards on what they deemed as unnecessary purchases.

“By building a buffer of savings, focusing on essential purchases and tightening household budgets, many Australians have shored up their financial position,” ING Direct CEO Don Koch said in an accompanying statement.

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