UK credit and debit card statistics

By Marianne Curphey

statistics

This page contains consumer credit and debt statistics - including statistics on credit card debt, card ownership, fraud, debit cards, bankruptcies and more - compiled by a UK.CreditCards.com research team. Statistics on this page will be updated periodically. 

Card ownership and use
The volume of card payments - in particular, debit card payments - is forecast to increase substantially over the next decade.

Total card payment volumes are expected to rise from 14.3 billion payments in 2016 to 21.9 billion in 2026.1

By 2026 the total value of card payments is projected to reach £942 billion, up from £638 billion in 2016.1

98.5 million debit cards were in circulation in the UK as of October 2017.2

There are around 164 million payment cards in issue in the UK. The number of debit cards has increased strongly over the past decade.20

In 2016 the total number of payment cards in use remained virtually unchanged at 164 million. Of this total 100 million were debit cards (+0.8%); 59 million credit cards (-0.7%) and 5 million charge cards (-4.6%).20

Over the last ten years debit card holding has increased by 45% while the number of credit and charge cards has declined by 14%. In contrast, the ATM-only card portfolio has halved to 11 million, mainly driven by the closure of dormant accounts and upgrades to debit cards.20

While debit card holding has considerably grown over the last decade, credit card holding has been largely static. Around 51 million adults in the UK (96% of the population) have a debit card.20

Around 32 million adults (60% of the population) have a credit card. Full-time employees are much more likely to hold both debit and credit cards than other groups. This is also true for those in higher income brackets compared to lower income brackets. Future cardholding growth is expected to be largely driven by population growth.20 

 

Spending

There were 1.3 billion debit card payments made in October 2017, worth £46.8 billion.  The number of debit card payments increased by 13% annually.2

Domestic debit card spending continued to increase month-on-month, rising by a further 0.5% in October 2017, when compared to the previous month. October 2017 saw spending abroad increase for the fourth consecutive month.2

The average transaction value (ATV) for all debit card purchases recorded the lowest level (£36.86) since October 2001.2

Average monthly spend per card continued to increase at a steady rate, rising a further 0.4% in October 2017, to £475, up from £447 the previous year.2

Cross-border spending was more than £3.2 billion in October 2107. The number of international purchases increased to 121 million; a rise of 2.0%, the largest monthly growth rate since September 2015.2

Although increased activity was reported in October 2017, the number and value of payments were lower than a year ago, by 11% and 13% respectively. This decrease, in part, highlights that sterling's purchasing power abroad has weakened considerably since the Brexit vote.2

The average monthly spend per card outside the UK increase by 0.8% to £32 during October 2017. The average number of transactions made per debit card abroad throughout October was 1.23, compared to 1.35 in October 2017.2

The amount spent every day on debt and credit cards in September 2017 was £1.87 billion.6

Around 80% of credit card spending is attributable to full payers, who in turn account for around 56% of the credit card holding population.20

While credit card spending increased by £3.9 billion during 2016, borrowings increased by £3.2 billion. This gap highlights the fact that most spending was driven by full payers using their cards as a means of payment rather than for borrowing.20

In 2016 on average a UK adult made four credit card payments each month and 18 debit card payments each month.20

The majority of card payments still take place in-store (67%), but both e-commerce and m-commerce shares are growing, as more people choose to shop online and on the move.20

 As card acceptance has been proven to provide significant benefits to businesses, the number of retailers accepting cards continued to increase to just over 1.0 million, while the number of outlets amounted to 1.3 million.20

 The total number of point-of-sale (POS) terminals in the UK rose by 10% to 2.2 million. Data collected from UK merchant acquirers showed the total number of card purchases in 2016 rose by over 11% to reach 15 billion, while the value spent increased by 4.2% to £647 billion.

Cardholders spent the most on food and drink (£114 billion), followed by other services (£100 billion), financial services (£80 billion) and entertainment (£57 billion). A third of all card purchases in 2016 were made at supermarkets, while every fifth payment was on entertainment.20

 

Market Trends

Despite underlying headwinds in the economy - slowdown in economic growth, rising inflation and deteriorating consumer confidence - payment card transactions continued to grow strongly in Q3 of 2017.4

During the quarter cardholders made 95 million more purchases than in Q2, with spending up by £2.4 billion over the same period. More specifically, there were 3.3 billion debit card payments amounting to £123.8 billion.4

Credit card transactions numbered 924 million, amounting to £50.7 billion. Online spending has been growing in prominence in recent years, driven by the proliferation of smart phones and tablets. Of the £174.5 billion in card spending during the quarter, 27% was via the internet.4

Traditionally, Premium cards (gold and platinum) are perceived as reserved for the lowest-risk, best-quality accounts. The FICO Benchmark Reporting Service data for the UK reveals that in July 2017 25% of the accounts in the FICO Benchmark Reporting Service were Premium accounts, along with 25% of balances.7

In Europe, Market Shares of Purchases Volume are as follows at the end of 2016: Visa had 66% of the market, Mastercard 31%, American Express 3% and Diners less than 1%.8

 

Black Friday sales

In November 2017, UK retail sales increased by 0.6% on a like-for-like basis from November 2016, when they had increased 0.6% from the preceding year. On a total basis, sales rose 1.5% in November, against a growth of 1.3% in November 2016.18

 

Inflation and Economics

The annual growth rate of consumer credit slowed to 9.1% in November 2017, the lowest rate since December 2015. This fall partly reflects a particularly strong flow in November 2016 falling out of the annual growth rate.12

Annual inflation in the OECD area picked up for the fifth consecutive month in November 2017, to 2.4%, compared with 2.2% in October 2017. This increase in the annual rate of inflation was driven by both energy and food prices.17

Energy price inflation rose to 7.7% in November, compared with 5.8% in October, while food price inflation rose to 1.9% from 1.7% in October. Excluding food and energy, inflation remained stable at 1.9% in November.17

 

Contactless Cards
Card acceptance has also grown - in 2014, 216,000 contactless bank-owned terminals were in place. This more than doubled by 2016 to 450,554, representing 62 per cent of these terminals.1

79.3 million contactless debit cards were in circulation as of October 2017, a rise of 2.6 million. By October 2017 81% of debit cards are contactless, up from 68% a year previously.2

Rapid growth in the use of contactless cards means cash will be overtaken as Britain's most frequently used payment method by the end of 2018, according to Payments UK, the trade association for the payments industry. This latest forecast still does not herald the demise of cash - even in ten years' time it is still expected to make up 21% of all payments.21

Debit cards will become the most frequently used payment method in late 2018, three years earlier than previously predicted due in large part to the increasing popularity of contactless. 21

 

Debt (credit card, total consumer)

Total credit card borrowings rose from £61.3 billion in January 2015 to £66.6 billion by the end of 2016, accounting for just 4.4% of total consumer debt.20

Credit card borrowings account for a relatively small part of household disposable incomes (5.3%), broadly in line with the average of the past decade. The growth in borrowing has been reflected in other areas of unsecured consumer credit such as personal loans and car finance.20

 Around 80% of all credit and charge card spending in 2016 was repaid in full every month. The proportion of balances that bear 0% interest or are repaid in full before the end of the interest free.20

Consumer credit annual growth was 5.1% in May 2017, compared with 6.4% in April 2017. The decline in May was driven by weaker growth in personal loans and overdrafts with annual growth falling from 6.3% to 4.8%, while growth in credit card borrowing also slowed from 6.4% to 5.5% reflecting weaker retail sale volumes in May.5

Gross lending averaged £16.0 billion per month in Q3 of 2017, slightly down on the average in the second quarter (£16.1 billion). In contrast, net lending (gross lending net of repayments and other adjustments) increased, averaging £511 million per month, up from £491 million per month in Q2. The figure for the previous year was £451 million.4

Credit card repayments have kept pace with spending. This can be attributed to transactors, who mainly use their cards as a means of payment, taking advantage of rewards associated with their cards. Repayments averaged £15.6 billion per month in Q3 of 2017, unchanged on Q2. A year earlier this measure stood at £15.0 billion.4

Credit card outstandings resumed steady growth at the beginning of 2017. At the end of the second quarter of 2017 outstandings stood at £69.4 billion, up £1.0 billion on the previous quarter.4

This total can be split into interest bearing (55.6%) and non-interest bearing (44.4%). Additionally, this total accounted for just 4.5% of total personal sector outstandings (£1,558 billion) at the end of Q3 of 2017, a proportion that has consistently declined since peaking at around 6.0% in 2002.4

Cash advances amounted to £1.3 billion, up by £82 million on Q2 of 2017. Strong competition continued in the balance transfer market, with £3.7 billion transferred during Q3 of 2017 up by £95 million on Q2.4

People in the UK owed £1.562 trillion at the end of October 2017, up from £1.504 trillion at the end of October 2016 - an extra £1,106.13 per UK adult. The average total debt per household - including mortgages - was £57,432 in October 2017. The revised figure for September was £57,278.6

Per adult in the UK that's an average debt of £30,176 in September 2017 - around 113.7% of average earnings. this is slightly up from a revised £30,096 a month earlier. Based on October 2017 trends, the UK's total interest repayments on personal debt over a 12-month period would have been £49.812 billion, that's an average of £136 million per day.6

 

Consumer credit debt

Outstanding consumer credit lending was £205.3 billion at the end of October 2017. This is up from £190.13 billion at the end of October 2016, and is an increase of £311.15 for every adult in the UK.6

Per household, that's an average consumer credit debt of £7,549 in October, up from a revised £7,509 in September - and £592.57 extra per household over the year.6

It also means the average consumer credit borrowing stood at £3,966 per UK adult. This is up from a revised £3,945 in September 2017.6

Total credit card debt in October 2017 was £69.6bn. Per household this is £2,559 - for a credit card bearing the average interest, it would take 26 years and 1 month to repay if you made only the minimum repayment each month.6

Unsecured consumer debt almost tripled from 1993 reaching nearly £160bn in November 2013. Indebted households in the poorest 10% of the country had average debts more than four times their annual income. 9

 

Identity theft and fraud

Overall fraud losses on UK-issued cards stood at £321.5 million in the first half of 2016, up 31 per cent on the same period 2015.1

 Over this period, overall card spending has grown by 4.8 per cent. Card fraud as a proportion of card purchases equates to 8.7p for every £100 spent, up from 7.9p in the first half of 2015.1

Banks and card companies prevented £475.7 million of card fraud in the first half of 2016, equivalent to £6 in every £10 of attempted fraud being prevented before a loss happens. Within the overall amount, losses on purchases made using a card remotely - those made online, over the phone or by mail order - rose 31 per cent to £224.1 million.1

The number of remote purchase fraud incidents rose 53 per cent. As part of that figure, e-commerce card fraud totalled an estimated £156.0 million, a rise of 46 per cent since the same time in 2015. At the same time, online card spending increased from £65.7 billion in the first half of 2015 to £74 billion in the same period of 2016.1

Card fraud losses in the UK rose by 28 per cent to £215.2 million, while overseas losses rose by 29 per cent to £106.3 million.1

 

Future trends in spending

The forecast for card use in 2026 shows a large growth in debit card payments and a halving of cash transactions: 18.2 billion debit card payments forecast for 2026, 57% more than 2016.2

  • 8.7 billioncashpayments predicted for 2026 - down 43% from 2016.
  • 4.4 billionDirect Debitspayments predicted in 2026 up from 4.1 billion in 2016.
  • 3.7 billionCredit cardpayments forecast up from 2.8 billion in 2016.
  • 2.2 billionBacs Direct Creditpayments.
  • 2.3 billion remote banking payments, 1 billion more than 2016, transmitted via theFaster Payments Serviceor cleared in-house.
  • 156 millionchequepayments, down 315 million over 10 years.
  • 43.5 millionCHAPSpayments, up 4.5 million from 2016.2

The volume of debit card purchases made in the UK is forecast to grow to over 18 billion transactions in 2026. This represents a 57% increase compared to the number of transactions in 2016, and is more than four times the number of payments made in 2006.20

The total value of debit card purchases in 2026 is expected to reach £753 billion. Contactless payment volumes will also rise because of migration of low value transactions that are currently made using cash or Chip & PIN.20

By 2026 contactless debit card payments are forecast to account for 51% of all debit card payments.20

Credit card payment volumes are forecast to increase steadily over the next decade. In 2026 credit and charge card purchases are forecast to increase to 3.7 billion transactions, up from 2.8 billion in 2016. Values are projected to rise to £189 billion in 2026. One of the most important drivers relating to future credit card volumes and values will be the level of economic growth.20

Fraud loss and prevention

Financial fraud losses across payment cards, remote banking and cheques totalled £768.8 million in 2016, an increase of 2 per cent compared to 2015.10

Prevented fraud totalled £1.38 billion in 2016. This represents incidents that were detected and prevented by the banks and card companies and is equivalent to £6.40 in every £10 of attempted fraud being stopped.10

The rise across all fraud loss types seen during 2016 owes much to the growth of impersonation and deception scams, as well as sophisticated online attacks such as malware and data breaches.10

Fraud losses on UK issued cards totalled £618.0 million in 2016, a 9% increase from £567.5 million in 2015; the fifth consecutive year of increase and higher than the peak of £609.9 million seen in 2008. At the same time, total spending on all debit and credit cards reached £904 billion in 2016, with 19.1 billion transactions made during the year.10

Overall card fraud losses as a proportion of the amount we spend on our cards decreased slightly during 2016, falling from 8.4p per £100 spent in 2015 to 8.3p per £100 in 2016 (in 2008 it was 12.4p for every £100 spent). This indicates that although payment card fraud is increasing, it is doing so at a slightly slower rate than genuine usage.10

Online fraud against UK retailers totalled an estimated £189.4 million in 2016, a rise of 20% on the previous year. There was also a substantial rise in fraud against online retailers based abroad, rising 15% to £119.4 million.10

Application fraud, which occurs when criminals use stolen or fake documents to open an account in someone else's name rose by 11% to £15.6 million in 2016.10

Account Takeover rose to £24.4m, an increase of 1%. This involves a criminal fraudulently using another person's credit or debit card account, first by gathering information about the intended victim, then contacting their bank or credit card issuer to masquerade as the genuine cardholder.10

Fraud losses on face to face purchases on the UK high street increased by 17% in 2016 to £62.8 million in 2016. However, losses were still 71% lower than the peak of £218.8 million in 2004, prior to the roll out of Chip & PIN in the UK.10

An estimated £308.8 million of e-commerce fraud took place on cards in 2016, accounting for 50% of all card fraud and 71% of total remote purchase fraud. Total e-commerce sales in the UK in 2016 were £199 billion, meaning that for every £100 spent online at UK merchants only 9.5 pence was fraudulent. For online merchants based overseas, 24.3 pence for every £100 was fraudulent.10

International fraud losses for 2016 were £200.1 million, compared with losses at their peak in 2008 (£230.1m), a decrease of 13%.10

As a whole, fraud against the adult population has declined from an estimated £9.7 billion in 2016 to £6.8 billion in 2017. Mass marketing fraud is calculated to be costing £4.5 billion and identity fraud is £1.3 billion. Mass marketing fraudsters try to lure victims with false promises of large cash prizes, goods or services in exchange for upfront fees, or what they call taxes or donations.11

Banking apps

Over the past five years customers' activity on banking apps rose by 354% with apps now an increasingly popular way to access current accounts, rising from 21% in 2012 to 61% by the start of 2017.15

There were 19.6 million users across the UK in 2016 with 159 logins occurring every second. People are also increasingly using banking apps to access a broader range of services, such as savings, credit cards and mortgage/investments accounts, rising by 30%, 46% and 86% respectively from 2015 to 2016 alone.15

There were 4.4 million customer-to-bank contacts made using web chat in 2016 - 510 every hour. Video chats are also growing in popularity, up 92% during 2016. 434 million text alerts helped customers track their spending and be better informed about their bank balance.15

Transaction volumes and spending soared by 174% and 225% respectively during 2016 and there were more than 450,000 contactless terminals now spread across retailers from pubs to supermarkets across the UK.15


SME lending

SME borrowing facilities at the end of Q1 2017 stood at £109.7 billion, of which structured term loans were £85.1 billion, overdrafts were £9.4 billion and facilities available but undrawn were £15.2 billion.16

New loans less repayments resulted in net lending of £294 million, the largest positive monthly movement for six months. However, overdraft levels fell by £200 million, so that borrowing levels overall were little changed.16

 

Online and mobile use

Card transactions comprise purchases completed at the point-of-sale, in-store, online or via a mobile device. During 2016, the number of transactions using all payment cards increased by 10% to 19 billion, with corresponding values up by 5.5% to £904 billion.1

Debit cards accounted for most of transactions, given their higher numbers relative to credit and charge cards. The number of debit card transactions increased by 11% to just under 16 billion, with values up by 6.6% to £715 billion.1

Of these, purchases amounted to 13 billion, corresponding to a total spend of £530 billion. A growing proportion of these purchases are made online and to a lesser extent via mail order/telephone order (MOTO).1

The total number of online purchases made with debit cards stood at 3.2 billion and corresponded with £195 billion spent, with an average transaction value (ATV) of £60.28. This means that in 2016, online spending accounted for 25% of debit card purchases by volume and 37% by value.1

Meanwhile, the number of MOTO debit card purchases amounted to 384 million with £48 billion spent. MOTO transactions therefore made up 2.9% of total debit card purchases by volume and 9.0% by value.1

The vast majority of online spending was within the service sector, which accounted for just over threequarters (76%) of the total. Of this portion, just over one third (34%) is comprised of financial services.3

 

Bankruptcy

There were 25,479 individual insolvencies in Q3 2017, consisting of 15,523 individual voluntary arrangements (IVAs, 61% of the total), 6,274 debt relief orders (DROs, 25%) and 3,682 bankruptcies (14%).19

Total individual insolvencies in Q3 2017 were 10.6% higher than in the previous quarter, and 7.7% higher than the same quarter the previous year. This was mainly driven by an increase in IVAs which rose to a new high. The number of IVAs in Q3 2017 rose 18.3% compared with Q2 2017, reaching the largest quarterly number of IVAs since they were introduced in 1987.19

Bankruptcies were lower than a year ago. Bankruptcies overall fell by 2.2% on the quarter and by 5.2% on the year. Bankruptcies on debtors' own application increased slightly on the quarter, but were lower than a year ago. Bankruptcies on a creditor's petition were lower than in Q2 2017 and Q3 2016.19

Debt relief orders (DROs) rose this quarter DROs increased by 2.1% on the quarter, but fell by 3.3% on the year. In the 12 months ending Q3 2017, the rate of insolvency was 21.0 per 10,000 adults (one in 477 adults), the highest level since the 12 months ending Q4 2014.19

 

Customer satisfaction


Between 1 April 2016 and 31 March 2017, the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) handled 52.2% (168,769) cases about the sale of payment protection insurance (PPI). 13

During this time, there were 9,619 new complaints about credit cards, an increase of 17% on the previous year. Complaints about bank and current accounts fell by 35% to 38,299 during the year to March 2017.13

The FCA has estimated that 64 million PPI policies were sold in the UK between 1990 and 2010. The Financial Ombudsman Service estimates that in the year to March 2018, it will receive 180,000 new complaints about PPI - accounting for 55% of the total workload over the course of the financial year.22

 

Sources:

1. UK Cards Association Report UK Card Payments 2017

2. UK Finance Debit Card Report October 2017

3. UK Finance Card Expenditure Statistics October 2017

4. UK Finance Quarterly Market Trends Q3 2017

5. BBA Statistical Release May 2017

6. The Money Charity Statistics December 2017

7. FICO Benchmark Reporting Service

8. The Nilson Report 2017

9. Centre for Social Justice report: "Maxed Out: Serious personal debt in Britain"

10. Financial Fraud Action Review 2017 Fraud Facts

11. Experian Annual Fraud Indicator 2017

12. Bank of England: Money and Credit November 2017

13. Financial Ombudsman Service Annual Review 2017

14. The UK Cards Association Contactless Debit Card Report May 2017

15. BBA news report June 2017

16. Bank Support for SMEs report BBA Quarter 1 2017

17. OECD Consumer price update January 2018

18. KPMG Report: Black Friday 2017

19. The Insolvency Service: Insolvency Statistics July to September 2017

20. UK Cards Association: UK Card Payments Summary 2017

21. Report from Payments UK

22. Financial Ombudsman Service News October 2017

Updated: 1 February 2018