Britons Lead the Way in Europe for Credit Card Use

by : Phil

Figures released by the Bank of England have revealed that Britons had wracked up an astonishing ?54.93 billion worth of credit card debt by the end of 2007. It is no surprise then that people in Britain are twice as likely to have plastic credit then people in any other country in Western Europe.

A recent report from market analyst, Datamonitor, showed that by the end of 2006, UK residents topped the credit card league with the average Briton having 1.4 cards to their name with Norwegians in second place with 0.7 cards each.

This could be a result of the increasing trend for people in the Britain to move outstanding balances from one card provider to another and take advantage of the 0% introductory plans on offer.

However, Datamonitor say it is more likely to be down to British people's differing approach towards credit, compared with their European neighbours who have a far more relaxed attitude towards debt.

The average UK resident owes just over ?3,000 in overall unsecured debt, compared to just over ?1,500 for the average European. These figures reflect the explosion in borrowing that has taken place in Britain in the last decade with UK borrowers now accounting for one third of all unsecured debt in Western Europe.

Personal debt in the UK has reached over ?1.3 trillion, with overuse of credit cards lying at the heart of the problem according to the debt advisory facility, the Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS).

CCCS spokeswoman Frances Walker says, "We use credit cards more than many European Countries. Bank of England figures show that outstanding balances on these cards have gone up 383% since 1994."

James Ketchell also of CCCS believes many Brits are becoming separated from the reality of their own financial situation as a result of using several different cards and failing to keep a track of their debts mounting up.

He says, "It's easy to pay on credit because you're not seeing the money in real terms, so it becomes detached. I think people are now realising, perhaps more than they were in previous times, that this is real money and it has to be paid back."

Andrew Fabricius, author of the report for Datamonitor concluded, "The high penetration of credit use in the UK is due to consumers being happy to pay for goods and services by using credit and enjoy the flexibility of paying for purchases over a longer period of time."

Germany was at the bottom end of the table, with one in every 16 cards in the country being a credit card. Sweden, Denmark and France came next with a figure of one in 10.

Fabricius explains, "Germany had a far more disciplined attitude towards expenditure and as a result credit was far less popular in the country."

The research also found that British people are ahead of their European counterparts when it comes to the number of overall payment cards they have. By the end of 2006, the average Briton had 2.8 credit or debit cards to their name with that number set to rise to an average of three cards each, by 2011.

Again the Norwegians were second highest with an average of 2.3 cards each whilst people in France have the least number of payment cards per person with an average of just one each.