Credit card facts and statistics: 2022

Credit cards are a flexible way of borrowing money in order to pay for various products and services. For many, they have become essential to the modern economy, with many relying on credit cards in day-to-day life.
Share this guide
A picture of a person holding a credit card in front of a laptop. The title "Credit card facts and statistics 2022" is written over the top.

Let’s look into some credit card facts and statistics surrounding credit card use in the UK, consumer spending habits, credit scores, fraud, and more from 2022. 

If you need a new card for your business ventures ensure you compare credit cards to get the best deal.

UK credit card statistics

In 2020, 44.4 million UK adults (85% of the total) used some form of credit. This included 30% from running credit (i.e. credit cards that are paid off each month) and 4% from unregulated credit. Coincidentally, 15% of UK adults (7.8 million people) do not access credit, either through choice or personal circumstances.

In the UK, 68% of adults have at least one credit card. Of these, 46% have more than one credit card, with over half of these (56%) being acquired online.

A breakdown of how UK residents acquire their credit cards

A pie chart showing how UK residents acquire their credit cards.

Consumer borrowing and credit card lending 

In April 2022, consumers borrowed £1.4 billion in net consumer credit. This was then followed by a further £0.8 billion of borrowing in May 2022, which was slightly below the 12-month pandemic average of £1 billion, up to February 2020. 

The source of additional consumer credit borrowing in May was split evenly between two: £0.4 billion on credit cards, and £0.4 billion via other forms of consumer credit (such as card dealership finance and personal loans). 

Net lending via credit cards reached £1.5 billion in February 2022. This was more than three times higher than the average over the previous six months, and the highest since Bank of England (BoE) records began in 1993. 

In 2020, there was a rapid decrease in gross credit card lending, when figures plummeted by almost 21%. The following year, annual growth in credit card lending between February 2021 and February 2022 was a staggering 9.4% - a five-year high.

A breakdown of how the UK credit card market size has changed over time

A bar chart showing how the UK credit card market size has grown between 2012 and 2022, in terms of value (millions of pounds)

Credit card issuance in 2022 is estimated to have generated around £13.5 billion in the UK alone. Between 2017 and 2022, the market size of the credit card issuance industry declined by 1.6% per year on average, but has increased once again by 4.9% in 2022. 

Global credit card market

The global credit card market has seen sustained growth over time, from over $100 billion in 2020 to $103 billion in 2021, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 3%. This is expected to reach $107.7 billion in 2025, at a CAGR rate of 1.1%. 

UK credit card users statistics

As of February 2022, there were 59 million resident credit cards in circulation across the UK – 53 million of which were contactless. 

Over the previous decade, the number of credit card users in the UK has steadily increased. In 2010, UK credit card penetration (the share of the total population who use a credit card) stood at 40%. By 2015, this had risen to 50%, and by 2020, to 62%. By 2025, it is expected to reach 71%. 

In terms of numbers, approximately 35% of payment cards issued between 2000 and 2020 in the UK were credit cards. 

In 2019 the number of credit cards in the UK exceeded 60 million for the first time ever, with an average of 1.7 per person. However, since then, numbers have declined. 

As of October 2021, there were approximately 52.97 million credit card accounts in the UK, with almost two-thirds of these (34.79 million) being active (those with balances outstanding at the end of the calendar month). Given that the UK population in 2021 was about 67.2 million, this equates to almost 1.3 cards per UK resident. 

These figures increased slightly in February 2022, up to 53 million resident credit card accounts, of which 35 million were active. 

Debit card vs credit card usage statistics 

By comparison, debit cards are almost twice as common in the UK, compared to credit cards for both number of transactions and value spent. 

Between March 2021 and February 2022, the number of credit cards remained consistently around the 60 million mark, whereas the number of debit cards has been pushing 100 million for the same time period. 

In 2020, debit card penetration reached 1.8 cards per person, with around 99.3 million in existence, as of May 2021. This dropped to 96.3 million debit cards in February 2022, of which almost 94% (90 million) were contactless. 

By 2025, the number of credit cards in the UK is projected to reach 63.64 million, while the number of debit cards is forecast to exceed 108.6 million.

A breakdown of credit and debit card transactions and value spent over time

A bar graph and line graph that compares the number of UK debit and credit card transactions and the value spent between March 2021 and February 2022

Debit card spending has been on a steady rise throughout 2021, with around £54.4 million in March, rising up to a peak of £61 million in December. However, since then there has been a steady fall, down to £51 million in February 2022. 

By contrast, credit card spending has remained relatively stable over this time period, somewhere between £14-15 million. In April 2021, this figure did drop to £12.8 million, before stabilising. A peak of £17.3 million was reached in November 2021 as people started to prepare for their Christmas spending. 

When taking into account transactions by overseas-issued credit cards in the UK, the figure has remained around £16 billion since February 2020, with some minor fluctuations over the resulting two years to February 2022, when it stood at £16.3 billion. 

By comparison, debit card purchases in the UK are more than four times this amount, exceeding a staggering £52 billion in 2020. 

A breakdown of the average credit and debit card spend in the UK over time

A radial graph to show the average spend per credit and debit card in the UK, between March 2021 and February 2022

In terms of average spend, people spend more than twice the amount on debit cards as they do on credit cards. 

Throughout March 2021 and February 2022, this has stayed relatively stable for both, reaching a peak of £627 for debit cards in December 2021 and £291 for credit cards in November 2021. Conversely, the average debit card spend dipped in March 2021 to £550, and in April 2021 to £212 for credit cards. 

Credit card ownership statistics by country

Compared to the global picture, there are 2.8 billion credit cards in use worldwide, with 1.06 billion in the US. 

In terms of credit cards per person, the UK ranks sixth, with 1.27. Comparatively, Japan has almost twice as many credit cards per person (2.34), while Canada has three times as many (3.85). 

A comparison for the average number of credit cards per person across different countries 

A bar chart showing the average number of credit cards per person across different countries, including the UK

Types of card users

According to an Experian survey, 82% of credit card users fit into one of the following nine categories: 

  • Inactive users 

  • Infrequent users 

  • Transactors 

  • Users with recent promotional balances 

  • Users with promotional balances 

  • Users with promotional balance roll over 

  • Infrequent revolvers 

  • Revolvers 

  • Hardcore revolvers

A breakdown of the different types of UK card users, what proportion of the credit card population they make up, and their respective average credit card scores

A table of data showing the different types of card users, as defined by Experian, the proportion of the UK credit card population they make up and their average credit score.

Transactors, which make up 8.5%, will pay their statement balance in full every month and generally have one of the better average scores on Experian’s aggregated bureau index.

Representing over 11% of users, revolvers do not pay their outstanding balance in full every month and will incur a resulting rate of interest on their credit card debt. As a result, their bureau index score is severely less, at 895. Harcore revolvers are the most popular group. At 31.5%, these people only pay the minimum amount each month, which in turn produces the lowest average score of 803 (over 200 points less than transactors). 

A comparison of the characteristics for transactor and revolver card users

An infographic style table showing the attributes and characteristics of two different types of credit card users (transactors and revolvers).

Credit card usage statistics 

Individuals borrowed a net £1.5 billion on credit cards in February 2022, the highest monthly amount since records began in 1993. This figure was more than three times higher than the average of £400 million across the previous six months, and pushed total consumer credit to £1.9 billion net—the highest level in five years.

A breakdown of how UK credit card lending has changed over time

A line graph showing how UK credit card lending has changed over time, in billions of pounds, from 1993 to 2022.

In January 2022, there were 1.2 billion contactless card transactions, accounting for 55% of all credit card transactions and totalling £16.3 billion. The number of contactless payments was 113% higher than in January 2021, and 18% higher than in January 2020.

By February 2022, there were 156 million contactless credit card transactions per month–109% higher than February 2021 and 23% higher than February 2020. 

In terms of contactless payments by credit card, this figure has remained consistently under £200 million per month since February 2020. 

There was a relatively sharp decline in April 2020, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, after which the numbers have generally plateaued. 

UK credit card transaction statistics

When broken down, the average amount of money spent per UK credit card transaction has slowly declined over recent years. From 2018 to 2021, it varied between £51 and £55 per credit card purchase. 

Since June 2018, the total value of credit card transactions has fluctuated between £13.6 and £16.3 billion. However, in March 2020, this figure dropped to £12.89 billion, before dramatically falling to £7.8 billion the following month. 

Since then, the total value of credit card purchases has partially recovered, amounting to £14 billion, as of December 2020. However, for the year as a whole, payments decreased by around 18%. 

In June 2021, the value of transactions rose by 30% (compared to the previous year) before reaching a peak of around £18.5 billion in November 2021. 

After this point, they started falling to £15.8 billion in February 2022 across 284.1 million credit card transactions–40.1% more than in February 2021, and 2.8% more than in February 2020. The total spend for this month was 43.8% greater than February 2021, and 0.7% greater than February 2020.

What do UK credit card users spend their transactions on?

Between January 2020 and June 2022, the UK population spent more in December than any other month, with the vast majority going on delayable goods and staples.

A breakdown of average monthly UK credit card transactions over time

A stacked bar graph to show the average monthly transactions in the UK for credit cards between January 2020 and June 2022. These are categorised as delayable goods, social spending, staples, and work-related transactions.

The least amount of money was spent in April, with staples again providing the main source of expenditure. This is the case for virtually every month, except August and September, where more is spent on work-related purchases. 

The amount of spending on delayable goods tends to increase throughout the year, starting at an index score of 71.21 in January and rising to 127.6 in December. Social spending tends to fluctuate throughout the year with index scores of around 70, the peak of which is in February (84.95).  

Work-related expenditure tends to stay relatively stable throughout the year, with the exception of January, when it drops to an index score of 83.71 and September, when it rises to 108.74. 

According to a survey from Mintel, 40% of UK cardholders report owning a credit card to make online purchases, a 5% increase on 2019 figures, with 37% stating that they tend to use their credit card for larger purchases. 

12% were now using credit cards more than usual, to cope with the increased cost of living in the first half of March 2022. This figure rose to 18% for those aged 30-49, and 21% for those who were renting. 

A breakdown of UK credit card customers' spending habits for January and February 2022.

A stacked bar graph to show the average monthly transactions in the UK for credit cards between January 2020 and June 2022. These are categorised as delayable goods, social spending, staples, and work-related transactions.

Over the last decade, there has been an element of fluctuation in credit card usage in the UK. In 2012, there were 2.02 billion credit card payments across the country, which rose to a peak of 3.57 billion in 2019. However, within the space of a year, this rapidly declined to 2.85 billion. 

In the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear that UK consumers are taking significant steps to curb unnecessary spending. 

After a steep decline in April 2020, the volume of monthly credit card transactions has since started to increase, reaching around 320 million transactions in October 2021 and 350 million by December 2021. This is nearly 20% more than December 2020, yet only 2% higher than pre-pandemic December 2019. By February 2022, this figure had dropped to around 284 million. 

By January 2022, the COVID-19 bubble had not yet burst, due to the rising cost of living. The average UK credit card spend was £669, down almost 12% on the previous month, but up more than 17% from the previous year. 

A table of data comparing credit card trends between 2021 and 2022 including average UK credit card spend, average card balance, percentage of payments to balance, percentage of missed payments, average credit limit, average overlimit spend, and total sales.

The average card balance was £1,512, down almost 2.5% in December 2021, but marginally up 0.42% in January 2021. The percentage of payments in relation to balance stood at 41.5%, almost 4% up from the previous month and 17% from the same time last year. 

In terms of missed payments, just over 1.5% had one missed payment, 0.3% had two, and 0.17% had three. All of these figures were up on the previous month, highlighting the fact people were struggling to meet the repayment demands. However, figures for two or three missed payments were down on the previous year, by 11% and 19%, respectively, suggesting people are nipping missed repayments in the bud early on, before it becomes a recurring problem. 

Compared to April 2022, a slight change can be seen in the UK credit card landscape. Average credit card spend rose to £760, almost £100 more a month compared to January and a 22% increase on the previous year. The remaining figures remained largely the same, with slightly fewer people missing one payment, suggesting better management of personal finances. 

Average UK credit card spend

In December 2021, the average monthly spend on UK credit cards was £760. However, over the past few years, there have been some significant fluctuations in this figure, going from £697 in December 2019, to a low point of £476 in May 2020. 

A breakdown of the average monthly spend for UK credit cards over time

A line graph showing the  average monthly credit card spend in the UK between December 2019 and December 2021.

After this, it rose back up to £663 in December 2020. There was a further drop to £547 in February 2021, before it ascended again to reach its peak in December 2021. 

Average UK credit card balance and % payments to balance 

In the same period, the average UK credit card balance dropped, from about £1,720 per month in December 2019, to just over £1,450 in May 2021. 

Since then, there has been a gradual increase, up until £1,550 in December 2021. In terms of percentage payments to balance, this has remained between 25% and 40%, reaching the lower of the two values in June 2010 and the higher of the two in October 2021. 

A breakdown of how the average active balance and percentage of balance paid for UK credit cards has changed over time

A combined line and bar graph showing the average active credit card balance and the percentage of balance of credit card balance paid off in the UK, between December 2019 and December 2021.

Choose a balance transfer credit card that could save you interest on your debt

Contactless credit card payment statistics

Contactless payments account for more than half of all credit card transactions (57%). 

This was 109.4% higher than the previous February, and 23.3% higher than February 2020. By comparison, 71% of debit card transactions in February 2022 were contactless – a rise of 72.1% from February 2021 and 33.9% from February 2020. 

Credit card vs cash statistics 

During 2019, there were 7.4 million consumers who used cash only once a month, or not at all. This was an increase of two million from the previous year, highlighting the growing trend of people now living a cashless life

At the same time, there were 2.1 million customers who mainly used cash for their day-to-day expenses, such as shopping. However, the majority of these stated that they chose other forms of payment when it came to regular bills. 

Choose a 0% credit card that could save you money on purchases you make

Use of cash vs credit cards as a payment method since Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic caused multiple changes to the way in which society operated, and one of those affected was the use of cash as a payment method. The use of cash for all services has more than halved since the outbreak of Covid-19. 

A breakdown of how UK consumers’ cash spending habits have changed since Covid-19

A pie chart showing the use of cash versus credit cards as a payment method in the UK since Covid-19, and whether people are using a lot less, a little less, about the same or a lot more cash.

Almost 75% of people are using less cash in general, with 57.5% of people stating they are using it a lot less. One in every five people found there was no change to the way they used cash, and 1% said they were using more. 

A breakdown of the extent to which UK consumers have replaced cash with credit and/or debit cards

 A pie chart showing the results of a survey, where people in the UK were asked, the extent to which they had replaced their use of cash with debit or credit cards.

A study by Which? found that 71% of shoppers have replaced cash with card payments to some extent, with nearly half (46%) now paying entirely with a credit or debit card, as opposed to cash, compared to December 31st, 2019. By contrast, only 8% claim to be using cash in the same way that they normally do. 

In 2019, card payments accounted for over half (51%) of all payments in the UK. Cash payments decreased by 15% to 9.3 billion, but still remained the second most frequently used payment method at 23%. 

By comparison, debit cards were the most common, with 17 billion payments, and credit cards accounted for 3.3 billion. That’s an increase of 777% on the previous year, largely due to the increase of contactless credit cards. 

A breakdown of how many UK adults use cash once a month or not at all

A line graph showing the number of adults in the UK using cash once a month or not at all, from 2015 to 2019.

The number of people who were not using cash, or only using cash once per month, more than doubled between 2017 and 2019, from 3.4 million to 7.4 million, respectively. 

A breakdown of how many UK adults mainly use cash for their day-to-day spending

A line graph showing the number of adults in the UK who mainly used cash for their day-to-day spending from 2016 to 2019.

Conversely, the number of adults who mainly used cash for their day-to-day spending dropped from 2.7 million in 2016 to 2.1 million in 2019, representing 3.8% of UK adults. In reality, this means that more than nine out of every 10 people do not use cash for their daily purchases. 

Credit card usage between age groups

Young people are leading the way as the age group least dependent on cash as a form of payment. However, generally, people across all age groups are rarely using cash, with 7% of the over 65s using cash once a month or less in 2019. 

A breakdown of how many UK adults use cash and credit card for day-to-day payments across different age groups

A bar chart comparing the number of people who use cash and credit card for day-to-day payments, across different age groups in the UK.

Adults over 55 years old are more than twice as likely to pay by cash, compared to those under 35. Credit cards are the preferred method of payment for those between the ages of 45 and 54 and are three times more likely to use this method compared to 16-24-year-olds. Over 65s are three times more likely to choose cash over a credit card, and are the second largest users of each of these respective payment methods. 

A breakdown of the preferred payment method for UK adults when it comes to spontaneous payments

A bar graph showing the different payment methods that UK residents will opt for, when it comes to a spontaneous purchase, and for credit and debit cards, how many of these are contactless.

When it comes to settling spontaneous payments, 65% of people will use a payment card, with the overwhelming majority (54%) preferring a debit card and almost 11% opting for a credit card. Cash, by comparison, is used in almost 30% of purchases, making it the second most popular choice amongst shoppers. 

Find the best credit card for you, whether you're looking for 0% card for balance transfers or purchases or day to day spending and rewards

A breakdown of the total amount of cash payments in the UK over time

An area graph showing the total number of cash payments in the UK between 2009 and 2019.

The decline of cash as a payment method has been happening for some time. Back in 2009, 58% of payments were cash, whereas, over the next 10 years, this number had more than halved to 23%. If these trends prevail, then it would not be unsurprising if cash payments were around 10% by 2029. 

Breakdown of different credit cards

Deciding on the best credit card for you is dependent upon a number of factors, one of which is the rate of interest you will pay on your borrowing. 

Of British credit card holders, 36% are paying some level of interest on their balance, with the average being £121.40 a month (or £1,456.80 a year). On average, men pay £53.90 a month more than women, although nearly a third are not carrying any balance at all on their card(s). 

The competitive nature of the credit card industry means that providers are always looking to entice customers in with attractive deals and offers. In 2021, it was estimated that 31% of Brits made use of a credit card deal. Of these, 17% of these had an interest-free balance transfer credit card deal, 8% had an interest-free purchase offer, and 6% paid no interest on their money transfer deal. 

UK credit card growth rate 

The annual growth rate for all consumer credit in May 2022 was unchanged at 5.7%–the highest rate since February 2020 at 5.8%. However, this does not tell the full story of the previous 11 years, in terms of the UK’s credit card growth rate. 

In January 2010, the 12-month growth rate on total net UK credit card lending stood at +4%. By October 2012, this had dropped to +0.7%, after which there was a general upwards trend until June 2018, when the rate reached a peak of +9.5%. 

Since then, it has been on a rapid decline, bypassing 0% for the first time (since 2010) in March 2020. The lowest growth rate was a staggering -21.2% in February 2021. Between then and September 2021, it has risen back up to around -5.3%. 

UK credit card borrowing rate 

The annual growth rate for total credit card borrowing in the UK hit 11.6% in April 2022—the highest figure since November 2005. This then dropped to 11.2% in May 2022. 

The rate for all consumer credit increased to 5.7% in April, from 5.2% in March, rising faster than any period of time prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

UK consumers have now put more than £3 billion on credit cards in the months of March, April, and May 2022. In May 2022 alone, roughly 700 million can be attributed to credit cards.

A breakdown of how the bank credit card default rate has changed in the UK over time

 A line graph showing how the bank credit card default rate index has changed over time in the UK, from the first quarter of 2015 to the third quarter of 2019.

A credit card default rate is a higher rate of interest which is payable if the borrower fails to keep up with credit card repayments. 

Between 2015 and 2019, lenders experienced a fluctuating picture with regard to default rates. 

The first quarter of 2017 and the third quarter of 2018, both saw a decrease of 12 in the credit card index rating, compared to the second quarter of 2017, which had an increase of 25.4 over a three-month period. 

A breakdown of how average UK and US credit card rates have changed over time

A line graph to show the average UK credit card rates from February 2014 to August 2019, and how it compared to the US credit card rates across the same time period.

UK credit card rates have always been historically higher than in the US by about 5-6%. Since February 2014, the interest rate of UK credit cards remained fairly stable, ranging from 17.39% in August 2014 to 20.01% in August 2019. 

 A breakdown of how the UK average credit card interest rate has changed over time

A line graph showing the average credit card interest rates in the UK between September 2019 and November 2021.

Between April and May 2022, the effective rate on interest-bearing credit cards increased from 18.08% to 18.38% respectively. This sits 18 points below the February 2020, pre-pandemic figure. 

In May 2022, the average interest rate on credit card lending bearing interest was 21.39%. This happened to be over 20% above the BoE base rate, which was raised on 15th June 2022 from 1.0% to 1.25%. It was raised again on 4th August, 2022, taking it to 1.75%.

A breakdown of how the UK credit card interest rate compares to other interest rates for other aspects of borrowing over time

A line graph showing the UK interest rate percentage each year from May 2007 to May 2022 for credit cards, and how this compares to overdrafts, £5K loans, £10K loans, mortgages and the Bank of England base rate for the same time period.

Credit card savings 

The Money Charity estimates that the average credit card debt per UK household stands around £2,000. 

A customer with this balance, paying the minimum monthly repayment of 3% (£60) with an APR of 19.9%, could save around £33 a month if they were to transfer their balance. Accounting for a 1.5% transfer fee, this would equate to a saving of almost £1,000 over a 30-month period. 

Between September 2021 and November 2021, there was a 27% increase in people applying for a balance transfer credit card, compared to the same time period in 2019. There are currently about 60 0% balance transfer credit cards available online in the UK–at the start of the 2010s, there were over 140. 

The number of people pre-approved for a credit card also rose by 14% in November 2021, compared to November 2019. 

Half of people surveyed by Experian in December 2021 claimed they were planning to be more careful with their money in 2022, stating that the pandemic had made them reevaluate their financial situation. 23% expressed concerns for their financial future, with over a quarter (27%) more concerned about going into debt over the Christmas period of 2021 compared to the previous year.  

Credit card network statistics

There are somewhere in the region of 472 credit card businesses in the UK, employing around 8,700 people. Of these companies, Visa and Mastercard continue to reign supreme in the world of credit cards. 

At the end of September 2020, there were over 1.1 billion Visa credit cards in global circulation.  By comparison, there were 974 million Mastercard credit cards and 122 million American Express (Amex). 

According to net e-commerce sales for 2020, virtually all (98.5%) of the top 500 online shops offer payment by either Visa or Mastercard, making them the most frequently offered payment method in the UK. 

PayPal is the third most popular, with 77%, and American Express (Amex) in fourth with just under 64%. 

A breakdown of how UK credit card transactions have changed over time for different providers

A stacked bar graph showing how the total number of UK credit card transactions have changed over time, from 2014 to 2020. This is broken down each year by the number for each credit card provider in the UK.

Between 2014 and 2020, credit card transactions increased by over 40%. Visa continues to dominate the market, with roughly 188 million purchase transactions in 2020, an increase of 1.3% from the previous year. 

Globally, in 2020, there were roughly 188 billion purchase transactions made using Visa–-an increase of 1.3% from the previous year. By comparison, this was significantly lower than the 15% growth year-on-year for UnionPay. 

In 2021, Visa was declared the best credit card company in the UK. 

This was according to the YouGov BrandIndex rankings: a measure of an organisation's overall ‘brand health’. It takes into different variables to generate a score, including consumers’ perceptions of:

  • Brand quality

  • Value for money

  • Impression

  • Satisfaction

  • Reputation

  • The extent to which they would recommend the brand to others.  

With a score of 40, this placed Visa fifth in the top 10 UK brands across all industries for that year, behind the likes of Netflix (43.6), Marks & Spencer (42.6), Cadbury (42.4), and John Lewis (41.3). 

This was the second time that Visa has come out victorious; it was also voted the most popular credit card provider for 2019, with a score of 38.3. It was followed in second place by PayPal (33.8) and Mastercard in third (27.6). Barclaycard came fourth with 15.3 and American Express in fifth with 9.4. 

UK credit score statistics

A credit score (also known as a credit rating) is a number generated by a credit reference agency (CRA) that reflects how reliable you are when it comes to repaying money that you have borrowed. This score will take into account your repayment history, and how you have handled money in the past. 

The higher your number, the greater your chances are of being accepted for future lending. The lower your score, the less likely you are to secure any future borrowing, and if accepted, you are also likely to be offered the least desirable rates for repayment. 

Almost 70% of UK residents do not know their credit score. Your credit rating can influence your chance of obtaining a whole range of products and services, including credit cards, loans, and mortgages. 

Credit Reference Agencies (CRAs) in the UK 

There are three main CRAs in the UK: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Each CRA uses a different scale to assess a consumer’s credit score. 

Experian 

Experian is the largest CRA in the UK, and a rating of 721-880 by them is considered ‘fair’, 881-960 is perceived as ‘good’, and anything 961 or above is rated as excellent. 

A breakdown of fair, good, and excellent credit scores for different UK credit reference agencies

A table of data showing the three largest credit reference agencies in the UK, and their respective credit scores for a fair, good, and excellent credit score.

The average credit score across the UK reached 797 in September 2021, falling under the ‘fair’ category. This was up from 792 in 2020, and 776 in 2019. 

The highest average scores can be found in the City of London (893), followed by the Isles of Scilly (886), and Wokingham (880). By contrast, Kingston-upon-Hull has the lowest average score (702), with Blaenau Gwent and Blackpool marginally ahead, with respectively low scores of 707 and 713. 

Generally, those over 55 have the highest average scores, with 863, whereas people in their 20s fare worse than teenagers. Those aged 18-20 years old have an average score of 823, compared to 792 for 21-25 year olds. This may be partly due to the credit card age limit in the UK being 18 years old, and thus the take-up of credit cards is likely to be low for this particular age bracket. 

The lowest of all age groups is those between 31 and 35, with an average credit score of 770. 

TransUnion

The maximum possible score from TransUnion is 710, with the UK average estimated to be around 610. 

TransUnion (formerly known as Callcredit) is the UK’s second largest CRA, and has much smaller ranges for each category of credit rating. 561-565 is considered ‘poor’, 566-603 is considered ‘fair’, 604-627 rated as ‘good’, and anything over 628 is viewed as ‘excellent’. 

Equifax

According to Equifax, the average credit score in the UK is around 380 out of 700, which falls into their pre-2021 definition of ‘fair’. 

Under their new definitions, imposed in April 2021, a score of 531-670 is considered ‘good’, 671-810 is categorised as ‘very good’, and anything over is considered ‘excellent’. 

Credit score myth-busting

There’s a lot of misinformation out there when it comes to credit card scores. There are a number of factors that can influence your credit score, either positively or negatively.

Our credit card expert Salman Haqqi sets the record straight.

PerceptionFact or fiction?Reason
Making a large purchase on your credit card (e.g. a holiday or a new car) will affect your scoreFictionWhat you use your credit card for has no bearing on your credit score.
There are no real benefits to a balance transfer cardFictionA balance transfer card with a 0% interest offer helps you pay off your debt quicker. With no interest to pay for a set period, all your repayments go towards paying off your balance, so you save on interest.
You should always owe some money on your credit card in order to improve your credit scoreFictionTo improve your credit, you need to make sure you make repayments on time. Paying your balance in full only goes further in telling lenders that you’re a responsible borrower.
Interest on credit cards becomes payable immediately after a purchase is madeFictionInterest is only charged at the end of each monthly billing cycle. If you pay off your balance in full, you will not be charged interest at all.
Switching your credit cards affects your scorePartly fact and partly fictionWhen you apply for a new credit card the provider does a hard check. This leaves a mark on your credit report and can affect your credit score temporarily. It should recover back to what it was, or improve, if you keep up with repayments.
The number of credit cards you own affects your credit scoreFictionAs long as you keep up with repayments on all cards, the number of cards you have has no effect on your credit score.
Buying a holiday on a credit card gives you more financial protectionFactA credit card gives you Section 75 protection, which covers any spending between £100 and £30,000.

UK credit card debt statistics 

One of the biggest fears of owning a credit card is the debt that can be accumulated if you do not manage your finances effectively and sensibly. 

StepChange Debt Charity reported that in April 2022, of the 12,500 new clients receiving debt advice, 64% of these had credit card debt.   

Outstanding balances on credit card accounts in the UK have declined over the course of 2020 and 2021. In August 2021, total credit card debt in the UK stood at £56.5 billion, a significant drop from the £72.1 billion reported at the beginning of 2020. 

As of October 2021, the total monthly outstanding balance on credit cards stood at £55.31 billion. 

Between April 2021 and April 2022, outstanding credit card balance increased by 8.7%, at a cost of £4.9 billion. This meant borrowers paid £126 million a day in interest alone in April 2022. 

In the year leading up to April 2022, the amount of outstanding consumer credit in the UK increased by 2.45%. Conversely, outstanding levels of credit card borrowing increased by 8.7%. As of February 2022, over half (53.8%) of UK credit card balances were bearing some level of interest. 

A breakdown of total UK credit card debt over time

A bar chart showing the total amount of credit card debt in the UK, in billions of pounds, from 2010 to 2021.

Credit card debt accounted for 30% of total unsecured debt in April 2022, totalling £60.9 billion. This equates to £2,192 per UK household (or £1,152 per UK adult). This is a healthy decline from the beginning of 2020 when the figure stood at £2,592 per household (£1,364 per UK adult). 

Furthermore, it is calculated that over half of British credit card holders have an average outstanding balance of £798.30, and over a fifth owe at least £1000. 

Credit card debt during and after the Covid-19 pandemic

Since the outbreak of Covid-19 in the UK, 22% (3.2 million) of those affected by the pandemic have fallen into arrears. This is estimated to be around £3.8 billion (roughly £1,3855 per person). 

In September 2020, 8% of those who had fallen behind on some form of payment, were struggling to pay back on their credit card borrowing. This was the most common arrear caused by the coronavirus outbreak of 2020. Incidentally, this figure had doubled from 4% in May of the same year. 

Around seven million people have taken at least one credit holiday since the pandemic. Of these people, 12% now have severe debt problems, with 22% showing signs of financial difficulty. A further half (53%) were worried about falling behind on essential purchases for the remainder of the year. 

The most common source of borrowing was credit cards (17%)–an increase of 5% from May 2020. It is estimated that 9% of those affected by Covid-19 have used one or more forms of high-cost credit borrowing just to survive the pandemic, with 30% turning to credit cards. 

Average credit card debt between countries 

In 2020, the average debt for UK citizens stood at $3,245 (£2,718). Compared to the world’s 10 wealthiest countries in 2020, this places the UK in third for average debt, behind the USA and Canada, despite having the fifth largest economy. 

India, by contrast, was the sixth largest economy in 2020, yet only accumulated an average of $302 per person. 

A breakdown of average credit card debt for different countries

A bar chart showing the average amount of credit card debt between the 10 largest economies of the world, including the UK.

Credit card delinquency rates

When a cardholder falls behind on making the required monthly payment, this is known as credit card delinquency. 

Throughout 2021 in the UK, credit card delinquency rates remained below 2%. This was the lowest they have been for the last 20 years, and a sign that people are keeping on top of their repayments. 

This is partly due to the amount of money being lent out by UK banks and building societies. In April 2022, total net lending for these establishments grew by £5.7 billion, at a rate of £190.3 million a day. Consumer credit lending accounted for just over 10% of this increase, at a cost of £593 million. 

Unfortunately, if consumers can’t and/or don’t pay back this money, then lenders may be forced into writing off the debt. In the first quarter of 2022, £773 million worth of debt was cancelled, of which 35% (£270 million) was credit card related borrowing. This equates to a daily write-off of roughly £3 million per day. 

A breakdown of total UK consumer debt over time

A stacked line graph showing the overall amount of debt in the UK broken down into secured debt, consumer credit debt, and credit card debt, and how this has changed over time from December 1994 to April 2022.

Personal credit card debt in the UK

Most of us will likely need to borrow money at some point in our lives, whether it is for a mortgage, planning a wedding, or making an expensive purchase like a holiday or a new car. 

As of April 2022, the grand total amount of UK personal debt stood at an eye-watering £1.786 trillion. This is more than four times the amount for December 1994 and about double that for 2002. 

For the average consumer, making only the legal minimum repayments each month, a credit card with an average interest rate would take 25 years and five months to repay. In the first month, this would be £58, but would reduce each month as you paid off more of the debt. If £58 were paid off every month, the debt would be clear in five years and one month. 

Average credit card debt per UK household 

In April 2022, total unsecured debt (total consumer credit lending) stood at a staggering £201.9 billion. This was a rise of £1.1 billion on the previous month, and £4.8 billion more than the previous April, in 2021. 

A breakdown of average credit card debt per UK household over time

A bar graph showing the average credit card debt per UK household over time, from 2010 to 2021.

When broken down, this means in April 2022, each UK household was paying on average £7,264, or £3,817 per adult. 

Between 2009 and 2019, credit card debt in the UK rose by £600 for the average household, from £2,014 to £2,626 (or £1,386 per person). 

UK credit card debt by age group 

When broken down into age groups, it is safe to say that some fare better than others, with regard to paying off their credit card debts. 

With an average of £1.091.80, those aged between 35-44 have the largest outstanding balance on their credit cards. Over half of Generation Z (those aged 18-24) card users were paying interest on their outstanding credit card balance, at an average cost of £211.20 a month (£2,534.40 a year). 

45% of 35-44-year-olds were paying interest on their outstanding credit card balance, compared to 43% of those aged 25-34, and 37% for those between the ages of 45 and 54. 

For the over 65s, only 15% accrued interest on their credit card balance, meaning 85% were paying off their balance in full each month. 

Naturally, these statistics may stir feelings of worry about credit cards, however, not all age groups unanimously feel the same way. 

A breakdown of credit card debt fear amongst different UK age groups

 A table of data showing the percentages of UK residents from different age groups who are worried about their credit card debt and repayments, over time from 2016 to January 2020.

Less than one in three 18-24-year-olds are worried about credit card debt. This makes them the least fearful age group with regard to credit card debt, which has consistently been the case since 2016. 

Generally speaking, with the exception of 55-64-year-olds, people have become more fearful over time about credit card debt. 35-44-year-olds, and those aged 65 and over, saw the biggest percentage increase between 2016 and 2020, with 16% and 17%, respectively. 

2018 seemed to be a year where the percentages dropped across most age groups compared to earlier years. The exception to this was those aged 25-34, and 65 plus, who both saw an increase in December 2018, but a drop in August 2017. 

Credit card crime statistics (including fraud and theft)

A breakdown of UK credit card fraud over time 

Credit card facts and statistics: 2022 - Image Module

Credit card fraud was the most common type of identity theft in 2019, with over 270,000 reports. Overwhelmingly, the most cited fraudulent activity was the opening of new accounts, with 246,000 reports (an 88% increase from 2018).  

In 2018, credit card fraud accounted for 35.4% of all identity theft fraud in 2018. In 2016, this was 66.2%, and in 2015 it was 34.8%. 

A breakdown of credit card fraud that uses the victim’s current address

Infographic to show the percentage of credit card fraud cases that use the victim's current address.

The detected fraud rate for credit cards rose by 42% in the first quarter of 2021, to rates not seen since 2017. Almost three-quarters of cases detected involve the fraudster using the victim’s current address to apply for credit, and these trends are expected to grow into 2022. 

How much money is lost through credit card crime? 

A breakdown of the financial impacts of UK credit card fraud on the consumer

Infographic to show the percentage of credit card fraud cases that result in financial loss for the user and the percentage of cases where money was refunded to the customer.

The actual losses experienced by the card industry are likely to be higher than the reported figures due to the fact that some related costs cannot be accurately calculated, such as resources to investigate fraud, managing call centres, and maintaining operations. 

65% of the time, credit card fraud results in a financial loss for the user, either directly or indirectly. 

In 2011, global losses from payment fraud exceeded $9.8 billion. By 2020, this figure had tripled to $32.4 billion, and is expected to reach $40 billion by 2027 (25% higher than 2020). 

Industry analysis indicated that in 98% of cases, banks and card companies refund the customer for any loss incurred. 

In terms of total volume, the global general purpose brand cards (Visa, Mastercard, UnionPay, Amex, Discover/Diners Club, and JCB) accounted for a combined value of $34.17 trillion in 2020. This accounted for 81% of the total global volume. 

Total losses for these companies combined in 2020 were $25.27 billion–roughly 88% of all card losses worldwide for that year. 

Countries with the most credit card fraud

Over 46% of the world’s credit card fraud happens in the US (25.7% of which were made to an existing credit card). 

A breakdown of European credit card fraud

A table of data outlining credit card fraud statistics for Ireland, UK, and France, alongside a map to denote their rank within Europe for credit card fraud.

Ireland is one of the worst affected places by credit card fraud in Europe. 88 out of every 1,000 inhabitants fall victim to credit card fraud, the third highest rate in Europe. This equates to €7,949 of stolen money per person, and €5,145 per 1,000 cards. 

The UK ranks third in Europe for credit card fraud risk, behind France in second place. For every 1,000 credit cards in the UK, €4,259 is stolen by fraudsters. This results in €10,414 per UK citizen (the highest across the continent). 

11.8% of fraudulent transactions in the UK happen across borders compared to 23.1% for Ireland. Whilst these numbers may rank low across Europe for this category compared to other countries, this does equate to 53.5% of the UK’s total credit card fraud costs and 76.8% of Ireland’s. 

Credit card fraud and the dark web 

Over 62% of the Uk population owns a credit card. With a population of more than 67.3 million, this equates to around 34.4 million credit cards registered to UK citizens. Compared to other countries, this is moderately high. Canada has 82% credit card ownership, whereas Japan has almost 70%. In the USA, two out of every three people own a credit card. 

A breakdown of UK credit card statistics and card fraud

An infographic showing UK credit card statistics and card fraud, including estimated number of credit card owners and the number of credit cards available on the dark web.

In terms of payment cards available on the dark web, the UK has over 134,000. Of these, 26,558 can be attributed to credit cards, representing almost 20% of the total. 

Five other countries in the world rank higher than the UK for the number of payment cards on the dark web, ranging from the USA in first position with more than 1.5 million, to France with 154,000. 

The UK ranks ninth in the world for the number of credit cards on the dark web. The USA, in first, has over 747,000, representing 48% of their total. However, Brazil, in second place, has more than 212,000 credit cards on the dark web, yet this equates to an astonishing 94% of their total amount. 

Incidentally, Chile has just over 4,000 payment cards on the dark web. 3,964 of these are credit cards, accounting for almost 99% of their total amount. 

Credit card data breaches 

Credit card fraud statistics for the first half of 2019 indicate a 54% increase in reported breaches, compared to the same time period in 2018. This is occurring at a record pace, with 4.1 billion records exposed across 3,800 publicly disclosed breaches between January 2019 and June 2019. 

Globally, it is estimated there are over 4,800 websites compromised each month. Once 10 stolen cards have been compromised per website, this can yield up to $2.2 million (£1.8 million). 

For example, the British Airways attack of 2018, where more than 380,000 cards were stolen, may have pocketed criminals more than £17 million. 

As of 2022, 19% of businesses that reported the most disruptive cyber security breaches, did so to their banks, building societies, and/or credit card companies.

More like credit card facts and statistics: 2022

Whether you’re looking to build your credit score or just want the most competitive rates, our personal financial experts have written a whole range of guides to help you manage your money.

business credit card

What is a business credit card?

If you run a business or make purchases for the company you work for, a credit card could be the best way to spend. Here's what you need to know about business credit cards.

Read More
Woman sitting on sofa looking at two credit cards with her laptop on her legs.

How many credit cards should you have?

Here is how the number of cards you have can affect your finances and credit record, and what you can do about it.

Read More

What is a credit record?

It is a record of your financial history, including details of when you have borrowed money and the repayments you have made. Here is what else it shows.

Read More
How to get fee free balance tranfers - woman smiling with credit card

How to get fee-free balance transfers

Fee-free balance transfer credit cards let you move existing card debt to a new credit card without paying a fee. Find out whether this type of plastic could work for you.

Read More
Shopping with a credit card - how to get the best credit card rewards

Best credit card rewards

Credit cards can come with a range of rewards that enhance their benefits. We look at the rewards on offer and how to get the most out of them.

Read More
Different cards explained - Bunch of credit cards

Different credit cards explained

There are several types of credit card, from student to cashback cards, and each has a specific purpose. Read our guide to find out how they differ and which credit card is best for you.

Read More

Methodology and sources

Graphic of the creative commons logo

About Salman Haqqi

Salman is our personal finance editor with over 10 years’ experience as a journalist. He has previously written for Finder and regularly provides his expert view on financial and consumer spending issues for local and national press.

View Salman Haqqi's full biography here or visit the money.co.uk press centre for our latest news.