Britain's love of credit cards goes off the scale

06 December 2007
The amount of credit available to people in Britain has reached almost £177 billion, sparking debt fears for millions of consumers, according to moneysupermarket.com.

Almost one in ten adults has access to more than £20,000 credit and the latest figures show that UK consumers have the potential to blow £176.9 billion on their credit cards.

As credit becomes an accepted means of funding consumers' lifestyles, the research from moneysupermarket.com has also revealed that Brits currently owe an incredible £64.7 billion on their credit cards, while a further £112 billion is available for consumers to borrow.

Worryingly, the credit limits on offer to Britain's 44.2 million adult consumers are typically in excess of £2,000 with the most common limit (11 per cent) falling between £2,501 and £5,000.

Yet four million people, nine per cent of the credit card population, have access to credit funds in the region of £20,000 or more, which is helping to push the average limit per cardholder to over £5,630.

However, despite the huge amounts of credit on offer, the research found that young people are less likely to lead a 'buy now, pay later' lifestyle with 52 per cent of those aged 18 to 24 not owning a credit card. Of the over 55s group, only 16 percent claimed not to have a credit card. Of those who have a credit card, the youngest group also has the lowest average credit limit, just £2,109 compared with more than £6,750 for the 35 to 44 age group.

Rob Kenley, Head of Credit Cards at moneysupermarket.com, said: "Our findings are worrying, yet encouraging at the same time. Almost four million cardholders could each get into over £20,000 of credit card debt yet the average outstanding balance for all cardholders is £2,060, suggesting consumers could be getting savvier about the perils of too much borrowing on plastic. Having credit is no bad thing as long as it used prudently and these promising figures show, on the whole, consumers are behaving sensibly."

"In the run-up to the festive season, we are urging cardholders to be wary of overspending on the credometer – it’s easily done but the New Year financial hangover could be painful."

"It would be a £177 billion headache for the nation if everyone maxed out their credit cards on a crazy splurge. To put it into context, that is almost equivalent to the UK's Health and Education budgets put together."

© Fair Investment Company Ltd

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