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19 million Brits admit to a previous decade of debt

28th June 2016 Print

With the credit card reaching its 50th anniversary this week, new insight from MoneySuperMarket reveals over a third (37 per cent) of Brits have been saddled with this debt for up to ten years.

This equates to 19 million people who have been reliant on plastic for up to a decade.

The analysis found as many as seven in ten (70 per cent) UK adults currently own a credit card, with 35 per cent having more than one. Credit card holders have owned a card for an average length of 16 years.

Three fifths (61 per cent) of credit card holders currently owe money on it, with the average amount being £891, increasing to £1,215 for 18 to 34 year olds. On average, this debt has been sitting there for over two years (27 months), rising to 37 months among 35 to 54 year olds. Overall almost two fifths (38 per cent) of UK credit card holders do not clear their balance in full at the end of each month, with just 28 per cent managing to pay off more than the minimum amount required, and eight per cent paying off just the minimum amount. A further two per cent struggle to or can never afford to pay off the minimum amount each month.

Over a quarter (26 per cent) of those who don’t clear their credit card debt in full each month admitted they’ve never managed to do this. A further two fifths (37 per cent) have only occasionally managed to pay off their balance in full, while another 28 per cent have managed to settle their debt in the past, but haven’t done so recently.

The credit card landscape continues to change as providers adapt to ever changing market conditions. Balance transfer card providers have waged war to gain top spot, and the zero per cent interest duration has increased from just 12 months in 2006 to as long as 40 months today. The largest movements in this area have occurred over the last three years, with balance transfer lengths increasing from 26 months to 40 months in this period. Furthermore, providers have recently been slashing their balance transfer fees too, however there is currently only 0.04 per cent difference between the leading three cards, showing how tight the market is becoming.

Kevin Mountford, banking expert at MoneySuperMarketcommented: “We’ve come a long way since the first credit card was created 50 years ago - now there is a huge variety of products to suit different types of spending, and consumers have been able to benefit from increasing rivalry between providers. The balance transfer card market has been extremely competitive with providers increasing the duration of the fee free period, and cutting fees. It’ll be interesting to see how much longer this competition can last but consumers should make the most of the deals whilst they can.

“The added consideration, following last week’s decision, is around Brexit. There’s been a number of new EU regulations on credit cards, most recently on interchange fees. But it would be very unlikely that any of these are reversed in the near future, and seeing the credit card is a global market, we wouldn’t expect to see any changes in the short term.”

MoneySuperMarket compares more than 100 credit cards and via its Smart Search tool, shows results based on how providers view the individual and their application, meaning customers are more likely to get the first card they apply for. Having pioneered the Smart Search facility, MoneySuperMarket now also offers a ‘pre-approved’ service with certain providers, meaning if a customer is accepted for a card, they will receive the exact product as seen on the site, with only the credit limit potentially varying. Pre-approval is currently available through MoneySuperMarket with MBNA and Virgin Money in the prime space, and with New Day and Capital One in sub-prime.

To mark the long history of the credit card and this year’s particular milestone, MoneySuperMarket has created a list of 50 fantastic plastic facts to show how the small card has withstood the test of time. Find out more at