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  • Nearly one in six can’t get by each month without cards and one in three customers are juggling three or more
  • Debt worries affect 42% of adults and well-off households struggle too

Nearly one in six adults rely on their plastic for financial survival as debt worries grow, new research¹ from financial services insight specialist Consumer Intelligence shows.


Its study found that 80% of the population has a credit card. Of those, 19% of credit card customers admit they cannot get through a month without their cards with around 31% juggling three or more cards.


The shock figures show 11% of card holders are maxed out to the limit on one card, painting a picture of growing financial strain for millions of households.


Bank of England figures show total unsecured debt on credit cards, car loans and overdrafts is now £198 billion – the highest level since the 2008 financial crisis.


Consumer Intelligence’s research found 42% of adults worry about unsecured debts they have in addition to mortgages with 11% admitting they worry a lot about how deep in the red they are.

Around one in five adults (18%) have debts of £10,000 or more, on top of their mortgages, the study found, with one in four owing at least £5,000.


One in six adults (17%) have exceeded their agreed overdraft limit in the past three years, while a fifth (19%) admitted they have had to borrow money from family or friends in the past three years. 

Debt problems affect higher earners just as much, the study found. Around 23% of adults with a household income of more than £50,000 do not usually clear their credit cards.


Around one in six (16%) who earn more than £35,000 a year rely on credit cards to tide them over each month with one in 10 admitting they are maxed out on one card.

Ian Hughes, Chief Executive of Consumer Intelligence said: 

“The alarm bells have been ringing all year with the Bank of England warning that personal debt levels have been rising at the fastest rate since 2005.


“It is a major concern when millions of people admit to being worried about how much they owe and so many are relying on credit cards to tide them over each month.


“Borrowing makes sense for many when interest rates are low but it is essential people have a plan to repay their debts not least to reduce the stress millions are facing.” 


The table below shows how debt worries vary across the country with people in Northern Ireland the most worried and adults in Eastern England and Yorkshire & Humberside the least worried.

 Northern Ireland  17% 50%
South East 15% 27%
East Midlands 13% 27%
London 13% 35%
Scotland 11% 37%
South West 11% 25%
North West 10% 37%
West Midlands 10% 26%
 Wales 10% 33%
Eastern 7% 22%
Yorkshire & Humbershire 7% 35%
UK 11% 31%



Notes to Editors

¹Research conducted online between June 16th and 17th 2017 by Viewsbank among a nationally representative sample of 1,052 adults aged 18-plus.

For further information, please contact:
Consumer Intelligence
Elinor Zuke
07863 350270

Kevan Reilly / Phil Anderson
Citigate Dewe Rogerson
020 7638 9571

About Consumer Intelligence

Consumer Intelligence (CI) is a market research agency specialising in the General Insurance and Banking Sectors. We have spent the last 12 years perfecting the art of collecting data so that organisations can benchmark themselves. Since 2003, we have been collecting and analysing millions of prices across the telephone, direct insurer websites and aggregator channels. For more information, visit the web site


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