Brits borrow more despite tight credit

16 September 2008 / by Rebecca Sargent looks at the UK's lending habits during times of tight credit

Brits have seen a year on year rise in personal debt of 30% since August 2007, research has revealed

Survey shows that men are in 33% more personal debt than women

As times are set to get tougher in the UK, borrowing is forecast to soar as Brits struggle to make ends meet. Total unsecured lending stood at £215billion in August 2007*, and this figure looks set to have grown considerably over the last year as Brits contend with a credit crisis and looming recession.

Average consumer borrowing via credit cards, motor and retail finance and unsecured personal loans stood at £4,524* per UK adult at the end of August 2007 according to Credit Action. However, new figures from show that this amount has soared by 30 per cent year on year to the end of August 2008.

The survey of more than 2,000 UK residents has found that the average combined credit, store card and personal loan debt now stands at £5,886, more than £1,000 higher than the average recorded at the end of August last year.

This is an increase of 30 per cent, which if applied to all unsecured UK debt at the end of August 2007*, would make a new total of £279billion. The results of the survey show that the average store and credit card debt stands at £2,076 and the average unsecured personal loan debt is £3,810.

When it comes to borrowing, the research has shown that women are more restrained than men, with an average personal, unsecured debt of £5,404, compared to men's £7,172, meaning men owe 33 per cent more than women on average.

The survey also found that the age group with the most credit and store card and personal loan debt is 31-35 with an average borrowing total of £7,276, whereas the age group with the least is those over 50 with an average £3,928.

However, despite the increase in debt, the survey also showed that 70 per cent of those with store and credit card debts owe less than £1,000, and 60 per cent of Brits have no unsecured personal loans at all.

Commenting on the results, spokesman Matt Edwards said: "As people contend with rising fuel and food costs, it is no surprise that they have to borrow more. However, the downside of this will be the interest rates that could soon eat into people's pockets, as credit card and loan rates have risen considerably since the credit crunch began last year.

"A low level of personal debt for those over 50 suggests that the next generation of pensioners will be better placed than today's to deal with things like fuel poverty and recession."

Continuing on a positive note, Mr Edwards added: "Our research also showed that 70 per cent of Brits do not have unsecured loans, and 60 per cent of those with unsecured debt have credit/store cards of less than £1,000. This is good news as rumours of a recession circulate, people are going to need all the spare cash they can get their hands on, so large loan and credit card repayments could cause problems."

Survey conducted by OnePoll for in the last week of August 2008 with a total of 2,511 respondents

*Figures compiled by Credit Action for August 2007