MAS acts to curb excessive unsecured debt

A new Credit Limit Management Measure coming into effect on Jan 1 will potentially affect people who have unsecured debts that are six times their monthly income.
A new Credit Limit Management Measure coming into effect on Jan 1 will potentially affect people who have unsecured debts that are six times their monthly income.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

More help is on the way for borrowers who are in danger of being overwhelmed by unsecured debt like credit card borrowings.

A new Credit Limit Management Measure coming into effect on Jan 1 will potentially affect people who have unsecured debts that are six times their monthly income.

Banks will not be allowed to grant any increase in credit limits or any new unsecured credit facilities to such a person if they cause his total credit limit to exceed 12 times his monthly income.

Ms Loo Siew Yee, assistant managing director (policy, risk and surveillance) at the Monetary Authority of Singapore, said yesterday that the measure aims to help borrowers avoid getting over their heads in debt.

In June 2015, an industrywide borrowing limit was introduced that capped unsecured loans to 24 times one's monthly income. It was cut to 18 times in June this year, and will be lowered to 12 times from June 2019.

There are an estimated 60,000 borrowers with unsecured debts between six and 12 times their monthly income. That is only about 4 per cent of the total 1.5 million unsecured credit users here.

These borrowers will be affected only if they apply for new credit facilities, or a credit limit increase, that push their total credit limit above 12 times their monthly income.

They can still draw on their existing unutilised unsecured credit facilities.

Steps taken to manage borrowing have produced results. The number of highly indebted borrowers has come down by about 21,000 since June 2015, from 5 per cent to below 4 per cent of the total number of unsecured borrowers.

But since January, an average of 4,000 borrowers every month have hit unsecured debt levels 12 times their monthly income or more.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 16, 2017, with the headline 'MAS acts to curb excessive unsecured debt'. Print Edition | Subscribe