Credit Card Statistics & Trends In The UK

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Chief Data Analyst

At Generation Money we take a data driven approach to writing about personal finance and investing. All of our statistics pages are co-produced by Alex, our founder, and Dominic, our Chief Data Analyst. Alex is a Chartered Accountant (ACA) and former Vice President at Barclays. Dominic is a Chartered Certified Accountant (FCCA) and has a Masters Degree in Forensic Accounting. For any queries about this page please contact us.

Produced by

Chief Data Analyst

At Generation Money we take a data driven approach to writing about personal finance and investing. All of our statistics pages are co-produced by Alex, our founder, and Dominic, our Chief Data Analyst. Alex is a Chartered Accountant (ACA) and former Vice President at Barclays. Dominic is a Chartered Certified Accountant (FCCA) and has a Masters Degree in Forensic Accounting. For any queries about this page please contact us.

About Our Statistics Pages
Generation Money logo

At Generation Money we take a data driven approach to writing about personal finance and investing. All of our statistics pages are co-produced by Alex, our founder, and Dominic, our Chief Data Analyst. Alex is a Chartered Accountant (ACA) and former Vice President at Barclays. Dominic is a  Chartered Certified Accountant (FCCA) and has a Masters in Forensic Accounting. For any queries about this page please contact us.

Author picture

Founder

Chief Data Analyst

About Our Statistics Pages
Author picture

Chief Data Analyst

At Generation Money we take a data driven approach to writing about personal finance and investing. All of our statistics pages are co-produced by Alex, our founder, and Dominic, our Chief Data Analyst. Alex is a Chartered Accountant (ACA) and former Vice President at Barclays. Dominic is a Chartered Certified Accountant (FCCA) and has a Masters Degree in Forensic Accounting. For any queries about this page please contact us.

This is our comprehensive guide to the latest credit card statistics and trends in the UK. 

For many of us, credit cards are a part of our daily lives – in fact, there are 58.1 million credit cards in issue in the UK as of August 2023.

Credit cards can be useful for a variety of reasons, such as flexible payments, earning rewards and extra consumer protections such as Section 75. However, for a minority of credit card holders they can be an expensive form of ongoing debt.

Keep reading to find out all about the latest credit card statistics and trends in the UK. We have included the latest UK credit card data and added our own metrics and analysis for further insight.

For more on how these credit card data and metrics were compiled and calculated see the notes at the end of this article.

UK Credit Card Statistics – Overview

Key takeaways from our latest credit card statistics and analysis update.

  • Total credit card debt in the UK was £68.9bn as of 30th November 2023, which is 8.6% higher than November 2022, but 5.5% lower than the all-time high of £72.9bn in May 2019
  • The average annual growth of credit card debt in 2023 is 8.4%, the highest annual growth rate since 2010
  • The average credit card debt per UK adult is £1,281
  • On average, each UK household has £2,438 of credit card debt
  • There are 58.1m credit cards in issue in the UK
  • The average balance per credit card is £1,185
  • 64% of UK adults, or 34.4m people, have at least one credit card
  • There are, on average, 1.7 credit cards per account holder
  • Of UK adults with at least one credit card they owe, on average, a total of £2,001 across all of their credit cards
  • The average representative credit card interest rate in the UK is 23.9% as of November 2023, the highest on record
  • For June-September 2023, credit card lenders reported a slight increase to default rates compared to the previous 3 months
  • Credit card debt makes up 31% of total outstanding consumer debt (excluding student loans) in the UK
  • Men are more likely to hold a credit card than women, with 68% of adult males in the UK holding at least one credit card vs 61% of women

Continue reading for all the details, or use the links below to skip ahead to the credit card statistics you’re most interested in.

What Is The Total Credit Card Debt In The UK?

Total UK credit card debt chart
Source: Bank of England

UK credit card debt stood at £68.9bn as of 30th November 2023, which is 9% higher than the same time last year.

However, this is £4.0bn lower than the all-time high for credit card debt of £72.9bn reached in May 2019. 

Total credit card debt declined sharply during the pandemic, falling by £14.1bn in 2020. With the end of lockdowns and the return to ‘normal’ after the pandemic, credit card debt began to increase again. 

What Is The Average Credit Card Debt In The UK?

The average credit card debt in the UK per household is £2,438. This is 7% down from the peak of £2,617 in 2019.

On average, each UK adult owes £1,281 in credit card debt.

How Many Credit Cards Does The Average Person Have?

With 58.1m credit cards in issue, each credit card holder has 1.7 cards on average

The average balance per card is £1,185 and the average balance per credit card holder across all of their cards is £2,001.

There are 101 million debit cards in issue with UK residents.

Credit Card Debt Statistics – Summary

  • Total credit card debt in the UK was £68.9bn as of 30th November 2023
  • This is £4.0bn lower than the all-time high reached in May 2019 (£72.9bn) but it’s 9% (£5.9bn) higher than the same time last year (November 2022)
  • The average credit card debt per UK adult is £1,281
  • The average credit card debt per UK household is £2,438
  • There are 58.1m credit cards in issue
  • The average balance per credit card is £1,185
  • Of UK adults with at least one credit card they owe, on average, a total of £2,001 across all of their credit cards
  • The average credit card limit is between £3,000 and £4,000
  • There are 101 million debit cards in issue with UK residents
  • Credit card debt makes up 31% of total outstanding consumer debt (excluding student loans) in the UK

How Fast Are Credit Card Balances Growing?

Chart showing annual growth rate of credit card debt in the UK
Source: Generation Money, Bank of England

Credit card debt grew by 8.6% year-on-year in November 2023, which is an increase of £5.5bn on the same time last year. 

On average, credit card debt has grown by 8.4% in 2023. This is above the average rate of inflation for 2023 of 7.7% up to November. 

However, inflation exceeded credit card debt growth between January and May 2023, a departure from a long-term trend of credit card debt growth outstripping inflation, by an average of 2.8% between 2014 and the end of 2019.

This could suggest that consumers did not need to turn to credit cards to cover their spending in the first 5 months of 2023 in the same way they were before covid.

Many people built up significant savings deposits during the covid pandemic which have since begun to decline and this may support the view that consumers have turned to savings rather than taking on debt to keep spending. However, there may be significant disparities in savings and debt between different household income groups.  

Data from the FCA shows that credit card spending on everyday expenses fell from 37% in 2020 to 34% in 2022. In addition, the number of credit card holders who paid off their balance in full every month increased to 65% in 2022, from 60% in 2020. It remains to be seen if this behaviour has reversed in 2023 due to the heightened cost of living.

In November there was £971m of net credit card lending in the UK. The average monthly net credit card lending for 2023 so far is £718m, which is the highest average monthly net credit card lending in a year since the same period in 2004.

Overall credit card balances declined by £14.1bn during 2020 as customers paid down debt during the multiple pandemic-related lockdowns. Credit card balances are yet to reach the all-time high of £72.9bn recorded in May 2019.

The highest recorded annual credit card debt growth rate was 22% in 19981 during the credit boom of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

How Many Credit Card Customers Are In Persistent Debt?

A credit card holder is in persistent debt, as defined by the FCA, when over a period of 18 months a customer pays more in interest, fees and charges than they have repaid of the principal.

In this situation, the lender must take action to help the customer repay their debt faster and to get additional help with managing their debt from independent debt advisors.

The FCA’s initial estimate in 2017 was that up to 4 million accounts, or 3.3 million customers, fell into the category of persistent debt.

It was estimated by the FCA that the number of customers still in persistent debt by 2020 would be 2 million.

However, more recent data from UK Finance shows that there are approximately 950,000 credit card customers who are in ‘persistent debt’, covering a total of 1.1m credit cards, as of March 2020.

Credit Card Debt Growth Statistics – Summary

  • Total outstanding credit card balances have grown by £5.5bn in the year to November 2023, which is 8.6% higher than October 2022
  • Credit card balances have yet to reach pre-covid highs, with the all-time high of £72.9bn reached in May 2019
  • For the month of November 2023 there was £971m of net credit card lending
  • The average monthly net credit card lending for 2023 so far is £718m, which is the highest average monthly net credit card lending for the same period in a year since 2004
  • Credit card debt grew, on average, 2.8% ahead of inflation in 2014-2019, but has risen at an average of 0.7% above inflation in Jan-Oct 2023
  • Credit card debt declined by £14.1bn in 2020, with outstanding credit card debt at the end of 2020 down 19% compared to the end of 2019
  • The highest recorded annual credit card debt growth rate was 22% in 19981
  • Approximately 950,000 credit card customers are in persistent debt as of March 2020

What Is the Average Credit Card Interest Rate In The UK?

Chart showing average credit card interest rates over time
Source: Bank of England

The average representative credit card interest rate in the UK is 23.9%, the highest on record, as of 30th November 2023. In fact, the average credit card interest rate seen in 2023 of 23.1% is the highest on record.

Interest charged by lenders on credit cards is not always directly tied to the Bank of England base rate, unlike other types of debt including mortgages. However, consumer lending rates tend to follow the trend of the change in the base rate which has seen credit card interest rates rise to levels not seen since the mid 1990s.

The lowest average representative credit card interest rate recorded in the UK was 14.8% on the 31st March 2004.

However, the proportion of outstanding credit card balances that are interest-bearing has continued to decline to around 50.1% of total balances, continuing a long-term trend. This suggests many customers are paying off their balances in full every month and taking advantage of 0% introductory and balance transfer rates which should help to ensure that credit card repayments remain affordable.

How Much Interest Is Paid on Credit Cards Each Year?

With only half of outstanding balances bearing interest and an average representative interest rate of 23.9%, it implies an annualised credit card interest bill of £8.2bn for UK consumers. This is the highest on record.

The previous highest implied annual interest bill was £7.7bn in 2019. Despite credit card balances sitting at an average of £72.5bn in 2019 – £6.2bn higher than the 2023 average – the average interest rate was lower, at 19.9%. 

So, even though total credit card debt is lower than the all-time high, the amount of interest paid by consumers has never been higher.

With interest rates on credit cards at an all-time high it’s important to have a plan in place to keep your borrowing under control. Making more than the minimum payment each month will help clear your credit card balance much faster than just making the minimum payment.

Of UK adults with a credit card account, they hold an average total balance of £2,001. Based on an average interest rate of 23.9% and making only the minimum repayment each month it would take 24 years and 10 months to pay off the entire debt. This would include £3,678 in interest alone.

By making a fixed monthly repayment equal to the first month’s minimum repayment (£60) instead, the debt would take 2 years and 10 months to clear. This would include £696 in interest.

In this example, we have assumed the minimum to be 1% of the outstanding balance plus interest which is £60 in the first month.

Credit card debt is almost always more expensive than the returns you may be able to get by investing so you should strongly consider paying off expensive debt before investing.

Read our expert guide on how to pay off credit card debt for more.

UK Credit Card Interest Rate Statistics – Summary:

  • The average representative credit card interest rate in the UK is 23.9%, the highest on record, as of 30th November 2023
  • The lowest average representative credit card interest rate recorded in the UK was 14.8% on the 31st March 2004
  • Interest-bearing balances make up 50.1% of all outstanding credit card debt
  • UK consumers face an annualised interest bill on credit card debt of £8.2bn based on the latest interest rates and balance data

How Are Credit Card Defaults Trending?

Chart showing credit card default rates index as reported by credit card lenders
Source: Bank of England

In the first half of 2022, credit card lenders began to report rising default rates. However, for the  April-June period in 2023, credit card lenders reported no change to default rates compared to the previous 3 months. 

For the July-September period, credit card lenders reported a slight decrease in default rates. However, lenders also reported that they expect default rates to increase in the next 3 months period (October-December 2023).

Given that customer deposits continue to decline, it may be that households are using the savings built up during the covid pandemic to help meet their debt obligations and this is contributing to stable default rates so far in 2023.

Wage growth has outstripped inflation for several months as of October and this may further support stable credit card default rates.

How Much Credit Card Debt Is Written Off In The UK?

Source: Generation Money, Bank of England

A total of £1.2bn of credit card debt has been written off by lenders in the year to the 30th September 2023, slightly up on the £1.0bn written off in the 12 months till the 30th Septembr 2022.

In the first 9 months of 2023, £817m of credit card debt was written off, a small increase on the £796m written off in the first 9 months of 2022.

Since 2014, credit card write-offs as a proportion of total outstanding credit card debt has stayed stable at around 2% per year

There is a lag effect in debt write-offs compared to outstanding debt, as write-offs tend to occur after a sometimes lengthy period of arrears and recovery actions before being deemed irrecoverable and therefore written-off. However, the trend since 2014 has remained stable.

If interest rates on credit cards continue to rise it’s possible that we may see write-offs increase. However, with recent data showing wage growth above inflation and the proportion of interest-bearing credit balances continuing to decline, write-off rates could remain stable.

Credit Card Debt Write-Off Statistics – Summary

  • £1.2bn of credit card debt was written off in the year to 30th September 2023, which is 1.7% of total credit card debt outstanding as at 30th September 2023
  • £817m of credit card debt has been written off by lenders in the 9 months to September 2023, slightly more than the £796m written off in the first 9 months of 2022
  • Credit card debt write-offs have averaged 2% per year since 2014
  • Annual credit card write-offs as a percentage of total outstanding credit card debt peaked in 2010 at 9.1% during the Great Financial Crisis

Credit card write-off vs default, what’s the difference? 

Write-offs are an accounting entry recorded by lenders to recognise that a debt is irrecoverable. This is usually after a credit card account has been in default for a significant period of time, usually at least 90 days, and the lender has determined there’s no realistic prospect of recovery. 

Defaults are recorded before write-offs. A debt that is written off will have already been classed as defaulted, or in arrears, and write-off is the final stage of a defaulted debt when it is not expected to be recovered.

That being said, debt is sometimes written-back if a customer does resume repayments although this is usually only a small proportion of written-off debt. Similarly, debts in default can still be recovered and removed from the default category. Default rates tend to be leading indicators of debt write-offs.

Why does the Bank of England track write-offs?

There are several reasons that the Bank of England tracks credit card write-offs. First, they can be viewed as an indicator as to whether consumers are struggling to manage their debts and therefore help to inform policymakers. In turn, this can influence monetary policy along with a range of other factors.

Write-offs also have the effect of reducing the money supply. The largest credit card lenders in the UK are banks and when they issue credit they inflate the money supply. Therefore when credit card debt is written-off, it reduces the money supply.

Credit Card Ownership Demographics In The UK

Below we look at credit card ownership statistics across demographics. 

Credit Card Ownership – All Adults

The percentage of UK adults with at least one credit card declined from 66% in 2020 to 64% in 2022, around 34m people

Chart showing proportion of UK adults who hold a credit card
Source: FCA

During 2020 there was a significant reduction in credit card debt and this could help explain the reduction in overall credit card ownership as people used money saved during lockdowns to pay off debt and close card accounts.

Credit Card Ownership By Age

The age groups most likely to have a credit card are the 55-64 and 65-74 year old categories. 

Chart showing proportion of credit card ownership by age in the UK
Source: FCA

Only 28% of 18-24 year olds own a credit card. However, for total unsecured debt including student loans, 18-24 year olds are the second most indebted generation after 25-34 year olds, with an average unsecured debt of £10.7k. For 25-34 year olds total unsecured debt is, on average, £12.4k per person.

Credit Card Ownership By Sex

Men are more likely to own a credit card than women with 68% of men owning at least one credit card compared to 61% of women.

Chart showing credit card ownership rates of men and women in the UK
Source: FCA

However, women are more likely than men to revolve their balance each month and therefore incur interest charges.

Source: FCA

A revolving balance means a credit card balance that is not paid off in full each month. As a result, it’s likely to incur interest charges as well as the possibility of late payment fees if the minimum payment isn’t made on time.

Credit Card Ownership By Household Income

Households with the highest income levels are much more likely to own credit cards than those with the lowest income levels. 

Chart showing credit card ownership by age in the UK
Source: FCA

Of households with an annual income of £50k or more, 80% own at least one credit card, compared to 40% of households with an income of less than £15k. This is a trend that’s remained consistent over time.

Credit Card Demographics Statistics – Summary

  • 64% of UK adults have at least one credit card as of 2022, down from 66% in 2020
  • 55-64 and 65-74 year olds are the most likely age groups to have a credit card, with 73% of people in each group having a credit card
  • 18-24 year olds are the least likely age group to own a credit card, with only 28% of people in this category owning one
  • But 18-24 year olds are the second most indebted generation in the UK, owing £10.7k each on average
  • Men are more likely to own a credit card than women, with 68% of men owning at least one credit card compared to 61% of women
  • However, women are more likely to revolve a balance on their credit card with 18% of women doing so compared to 16% of men
  • Households with higher income levels are more likely to own credit cards, with 80% of all households with annual income over £50k holding at least one credit card

Notes On Credit Card Statistics

The primary sources for the data used in this analysis are the Bank of England (BoE), the Office For National Statistics, the Financial Conduct Authority and UK Finance, the trade body for over 300 finance companies in the UK.

We have taken the raw data from these sources and conducted empirical statistical analysis to add extra insight. This includes calculating: averages (means and medians), imputed statistics, minima and maxima and combinations of data.

An example of an imputed statistic is the total annual interest bill on credit cards in the UK. This uses a combination of data on total outstanding credit card debt (BoE), the percentage of balances which bear interest (UK Finance) and the average representative interest rate on credit cards (BoE).

We strive to keep the data on this page updated on a monthly basis, but we cannot guarantee all the data is the very latest available at a specific point in time due to multiple release dates of the various data sources.

Sources

  1. The Bank of England added additional credit card debt data from other specialist lenders (typically non-bank lenders) in 1999, which gives an annual credit card debt growth rate of over 40%, which has been excluded from our annual growth calculations.

FAQs

How many credit cards does the average person have UK?

The average person in the UK has 1.7 credit cards, of those in the UK with at least one credit card.

What is the average credit card debt UK?

On average, each credit card holder in the UK has £2,001 in credit card debt as of November 2023.

What is the average APR on a credit card?

As of November 2023, the average APR on a credit card in the UK is 23.9% according to the Bank of England, which is the highest on record.

How many credit card transactions per day UK?

There are 12.1m credit card transactions per day in the UK as of August 2023 according to UK Finance.

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