The good, the bad and the unmanageable
Equifax research highlights how credit card repayment habits could put people at risk of persistent debt
Credit cards can be a convenient way to help manage spending, but what happens if they become unaffordable? As new credit card rules from The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)1 aimed at helping those in, or at risk of being in, persistent debt are set to come into force on 1st September 2018, YouGov2 research commissioned by Equifax provides insight into the repayment habits of UK credit card holders.
According to the research, in a typical month, 49% of UK credit card holders pay off their credit card debts in full. However, just over 1 in 10 UK credit card holders only pay off between 1% and 10% in a typical month. And, more worryingly, the youngest credit card holders seem to be less able to manage their debt.
12% of credit card holders aged between 18-24-years old admitted that they do not pay off any credit card debt in a typical month. When asked the reason, 42% said it was because they could not afford it.
There were 59 million UK credit cards in circulation in 20163; if 12% only pay off between 1% and 10% a month that equates to just over 7 million cards paying a minimum amount each month. Added to this, the Bank of England’s latest credit conditions survey found between April and June 2018 a significant increase in default rates on credit card loans.4
“Whilst nearly half of all credit card holders pay off their monthly balance in full, according to our research, that still leaves a large proportion carrying over a debt to the next month”, explained Lisa Hardstaff, credit information expert, Equifax. “And if this debt then rolls over month to month, the interest accumulates turning what is essentially ‘good debt’ into unmanageable ‘bad debt’, putting individuals at risk of financial difficulties.”
Under the new FCA rules, once a consumer has been in persistent debt for 36 months, their provider will have to offer them a way to repay their balance in a reasonable period. Those who are at risk will now have the support of credit card providers to break the cycle of persistent debt and ensure they can afford to repay the debt more quickly.
Looking at the regional picture, 19% of credit card holders in the Midlands pay off 20% or less each month of their total bill, followed by 18% of Londoners. The region with the highest percentage of people who typically didn’t pay off any of their monthly bill was Wales with 7%, followed by 5% of Londoners. In contrast the best regions for paying off their full monthly bill were those living in the South and East of England at 54%.
Lisa Hardstaff concludes, ‘The FCA guidelines are a positive step for consumers, providing a lifeline for those who find themselves simply unable to manage long-term debt. Whilst change in circumstances can often lead to debt that initially is thought to be manageable to become unmanageable, it’s also worth keeping a very clear note of credit card expenditure to ensure that the payments made can be afforded.”
For further information on debt management visit the Equifax Knowledge Centre.
2 All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2122 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 2nd - 3rd January 2018. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).
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Equifax Inc. (Equifax) is a global information solutions company that uses unique data, innovative analytics, technology and industry expertise to power organizations and individuals around the world by transforming knowledge into insights that help make more informed business and personal decisions.
Headquartered in Atlanta, Ga., Equifax operates or has investments in 24 countries in North America, Central and South America, Europe and the Asia Pacific region. It is a member of Standard & Poor's (S&P) 500® Index, and its common stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) under the symbol EFX. Equifax employs 10,400 employees worldwide.
Equifax Limited is one of the Equifax group companies based in the UK.
Equifax Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.