UK credit card statistics 2021

How are Brits using their credit cards?

If used correctly, credit cards can help you to spread out expenses month by month, earn rewards on day-to-day spending and improve your credit score. However, some people are reluctant to use their cards for fear of getting into debt.

We’ve collated the latest statistics on credit card lending, ownership, repayment and spending in the UK. Here’s what we found.

Quick overview

  • As of January 2021, there were 62.8 million credit cards issued to UK residents.
  • There were 196 million credit card transactions in January 2021. This is 31% less than there were in January 2020.
  • On average across 2020, 40% of all credit card transactions were conducted via contactless payment.
  • The total outstanding balance incurring interest from all credit card accounts decreased by 19% in January 2021 compared to January 2020.
  • The average value of purchases made using a credit card decreased by 35% (£82 less per purchase) in January 2021 compared to January 2020.
  • The average interest rate for credit cards in 2020 was 18.1%.

Number of credit card accounts

In January 2021, there were 62.8 million credit cards issued to UK residents. Given the 92.2 million debit cards issued to UK residents at the time, people are 47% more likely to own a debit card than a credit card.

There has been a 3% decrease (-1.9 million) in the number of credit card accounts open between January 2020 and January 2021.

January 2021 January 2020
Credit cards 62.8 million 64.7 million
Debit cards 92.2 million 97.3 million
Total 155 million 162 million

Number of credit card transactions

By January 2021, credit card transaction volumes had dropped by 31% (-88 million) since January 2020. Credit card transaction volumes dipped to their lowest point at the end of April 2020. This could be explained by the national lockdown introduced on 16 March 2020.

Contactless credit card transactions are undoubtedly popular. On average across 2020, contactless credit card transactions accounted for 40% of all credit card transactions.

Volume of credit card transactions Contactless credit card transaction
Jan-20 284 million 128 million
Feb-20 275 million 126 million
Mar-20 273 million 108 million
Apr-20 163 million 32 million
May-20 186 million 60 million
Jun-20 227 million 76 million
Jul-20 261 million 106 million
Aug-20 273 million 123 million
Sep-20 281 million 125 million
Oct-20 273 million 122 million
Nov-20 273 million 95 million
Dec-20 291 million 114 million
Jan-21 196 million 71 million

Credit card lending and repayments, monthly 1993-2021

Gross lending statistics were collected monthly from April 1993 to February 2021 and repayment statistics from January 2010 to February 2021. Throughout the latter period, the two statistics follow similar trajectories, with repayments always lower than lending, as expected.

The trend shows that lending to credit card users consistently increased from January 2010 to December 2019, after which gross lending dropped by over half (53%) over the next four months. In December 2019, the City regulator’s new affordability rules forced banks to identify customers who had been in persistent debt and suspend their credit cards in February 2020 if they could not respond. This likely explains the graph’s drop in gross lending and repayments.

Credit card issuers (and lenders generally) are facing increasing pressure from regulators to curb certain practices that used to provide healthy revenue streams.”

Chris Lilly, credit specialist at Finder
Gross lending Repayments
30 Apr 93 £2.895 billion N/A
31 May 93 £2.73 billion N/A
30 Jun 93 £3.273 billion N/A
31 Jul 93 £3.106 billion N/A
31 Aug 93 £3.054 billion N/A
30 Sep 93 £3.197 billion N/A
31 Oct 93 £2.92 billion N/A
30 Nov 93 £3.312 billion N/A
31 Dec 93 £3.798 billion N/A
31 Jan 94 £3.008 billion N/A
28 Feb 94 £2.702 billion N/A
31 Mar 94 £3.306 billion N/A
30 Apr 94 £3.086 billion N/A
31 May 94 £3.249 billion N/A
30 Jun 94 £3.577 billion N/A
31 Jul 94 £3.4 billion N/A
31 Aug 94 £3.714 billion N/A
30 Sep 94 £3.547 billion N/A
31 Oct 94 £3.39 billion N/A
30 Nov 94 £3.752 billion N/A
31 Dec 94 £4.309 billion N/A
31 Jan 95 £3.577 billion N/A
28 Feb 95 £3.235 billion N/A
31 Mar 95 £3.821 billion N/A
30 Apr 95 £3.675 billion N/A
31 May 95 £4.153 billion N/A
30 Jun 95 £4.093 billion N/A
31 Jul 95 £4.074 billion N/A
31 Aug 95 £4.115 billion N/A
30 Sep 95 £3.941 billion N/A
31 Oct 95 £4.165 billion N/A
30 Nov 95 £4.189 billion N/A
31 Dec 95 £4.657 billion N/A
31 Jan 96 £4.244 billion N/A
29 Feb 96 £3.795 billion N/A
31 Mar 96 £4.015 billion N/A
30 Apr 96 £4.548 billion N/A
31 May 96 £4.697 billion N/A
30 Jun 96 £4.327 billion N/A
31 Jul 96 £5.062 billion N/A
31 Aug 96 £4.59 billion N/A
30 Sep 96 £4.527 billion N/A
31 Oct 96 £4.926 billion N/A
30 Nov 96 £4.694 billion N/A
31 Dec 96 £5.666 billion N/A
31 Jan 97 £4.545 billion N/A
28 Feb 97 £4.161 billion N/A
31 Mar 97 £4.404 billion N/A
30 Apr 97 £5.166 billion N/A
31 May 97 £4.903 billion N/A
30 Jun 97 £5.098 billion N/A
31 Jul 97 £5.423 billion N/A
31 Aug 97 £4.838 billion N/A
30 Sep 97 £5.105 billion N/A
31 Oct 97 £5.246 billion N/A
30 Nov 97 £4.952 billion N/A
31 Dec 97 £6.415 billion N/A
31 Jan 98 £4.717 billion N/A
28 Feb 98 £4.489 billion N/A
31 Mar 98 £5.305 billion N/A
30 Apr 98 £5.347 billion N/A
31 May 98 £5.23 billion N/A
30 Jun 98 £5.779 billion N/A
31 Jul 98 £5.955 billion N/A
31 Aug 98 £5.403 billion N/A
30 Sep 98 £5.795 billion N/A
31 Oct 98 £5.627 billion N/A
30 Nov 98 £5.931 billion N/A
31 Dec 98 £6.821 billion N/A
31 Jan 99 £5.888 billion N/A
28 Feb 99 £5.762 billion N/A
31 Mar 99 £6.984 billion N/A
30 Apr 99 £6.607 billion N/A
31 May 99 £6.482 billion N/A
30 Jun 99 £7.29 billion N/A
31 Jul 99 £7.374 billion N/A
31 Aug 99 £7.271 billion N/A
30 Sep 99 £7.053 billion N/A
31 Oct 99 £6.823 billion N/A
30 Nov 99 £7.918 billion N/A
31 Dec 99 £8.5 billion N/A
31 Jan 00 £6.953 billion N/A
29 Feb 00 £7.268 billion N/A
31 Mar 00 £7.866 billion N/A
30 Apr 00 £7.155 billion N/A
31 May 00 £8.558 billion N/A
30 Jun 00 £8.151 billion N/A
31 Jul 00 £8.512 billion N/A
31 Aug 00 £8.595 billion N/A
30 Sep 00 £7.651 billion N/A
31 Oct 00 £8.448 billion N/A
30 Nov 00 £8.537 billion N/A
31 Dec 00 £9.067 billion N/A
31 Jan 01 £8.397 billion N/A
28 Feb 01 £7.517 billion N/A
31 Mar 01 £8.05 billion N/A
30 Apr 01 £8.543 billion N/A
31 May 01 £8.825 billion N/A
30 Jun 01 £8.425 billion N/A
31 Jul 01 £9.21 billion N/A
31 Aug 01 £8.798 billion N/A
30 Sep 01 £7.988 billion N/A
31 Oct 01 £9.29 billion N/A
30 Nov 01 £9.276 billion N/A
31 Dec 01 £10.166 billion N/A
31 Jan 02 £8.899 billion N/A
28 Feb 02 £8.413 billion N/A
31 Mar 02 £8.835 billion N/A
30 Apr 02 £9.92 billion N/A
31 May 02 £10.087 billion N/A
30 Jun 02 £8.936 billion N/A
31 Jul 02 £10.552 billion N/A
31 Aug 02 £9.697 billion N/A
30 Sep 02 £9.804 billion N/A
31 Oct 02 £10.24 billion N/A
30 Nov 02 £9.927 billion N/A
31 Dec 02 £11.75 billion N/A
31 Jan 03 £10.245 billion N/A
28 Feb 03 £8.67 billion N/A
31 Mar 03 £9.57 billion N/A
30 Apr 03 £9.971 billion N/A
31 May 03 £10.021 billion N/A
30 Jun 03 £10.546 billion N/A
31 Jul 03 £11.333 billion N/A
31 Aug 03 £9.997 billion N/A
30 Sep 03 £10.999 billion N/A
31 Oct 03 £10.988 billion N/A
30 Nov 03 £10.176 billion N/A
31 Dec 03 £12.475 billion N/A
31 Jan 04 £10.135 billion N/A
29 Feb 04 £9.806 billion N/A
31 Mar 04 £11.722 billion N/A
30 Apr 04 £10.596 billion N/A
31 May 04 £10.505 billion N/A
30 Jun 04 £11.625 billion N/A
31 Jul 04 £11.452 billion N/A
31 Aug 04 £11.55 billion N/A
30 Sep 04 £11.199 billion N/A
31 Oct 04 £10.663 billion N/A
30 Nov 04 £11.938 billion N/A
31 Dec 04 £12.357 billion N/A
31 Jan 05 £10.71 billion N/A
28 Feb 05 £10.109 billion N/A
31 Mar 05 £11.205 billion N/A
30 Apr 05 £10.346 billion N/A
31 May 05 £11.396 billion N/A
30 Jun 05 £11.147 billion N/A
31 Jul 05 £10.772 billion N/A
31 Aug 05 £11.885 billion N/A
30 Sep 05 £10.925 billion N/A
31 Oct 05 £10.984 billion N/A
30 Nov 05 £11.361 billion N/A
31 Dec 05 £11.603 billion N/A
31 Jan 06 £11.071 billion N/A
28 Feb 06 £9.67 billion N/A
31 Mar 06 £10.523 billion N/A
30 Apr 06 £9.629 billion N/A
31 May 06 £11.172 billion N/A
30 Jun 06 £10.556 billion N/A
31 Jul 06 £10.565 billion N/A
31 Aug 06 £10.624 billion N/A
30 Sep 06 £10.024 billion N/A
31 Oct 06 £10.845 billion N/A
30 Nov 06 £10.78 billion N/A
31 Dec 06 £11.204 billion N/A
31 Jan 07 £10.714 billion N/A
28 Feb 07 £9.148 billion N/A
31 Mar 07 £10.331 billion N/A
30 Apr 07 £10.058 billion N/A
31 May 07 £10.895 billion N/A
30 Jun 07 £10.302 billion N/A
31 Jul 07 £11.352 billion N/A
31 Aug 07 £10.861 billion N/A
30 Sep 07 £9.986 billion N/A
31 Oct 07 £11.528 billion N/A
30 Nov 07 £11.336 billion N/A
31 Dec 07 £12.034 billion N/A
31 Jan 08 £11.111 billion N/A
29 Feb 08 £10.433 billion N/A
31 Mar 08 £10.588 billion N/A
30 Apr 08 £10.846 billion N/A
31 May 08 £10.981 billion N/A
30 Jun 08 £11.066 billion N/A
31 Jul 08 £11.445 billion N/A
31 Aug 08 £10.516 billion N/A
30 Sep 08 £11.301 billion N/A
31 Oct 08 £11.019 billion N/A
30 Nov 08 £10.138 billion N/A
31 Dec 08 £12.164 billion N/A
31 Jan 09 £9.66 billion N/A
28 Feb 09 £8.911 billion N/A
31 Mar 09 £10.486 billion N/A
30 Apr 09 £9.84 billion N/A
31 May 09 £9.642 billion N/A
30 Jun 09 £10.484 billion N/A
31 Jul 09 £10.531 billion N/A
31 Aug 09 £9.604 billion N/A
30 Sep 09 £10.407 billion N/A
31 Oct 09 £9.903 billion N/A
30 Nov 09 £10.483 billion N/A
31 Dec 09 £11.425 billion N/A
31-Jan-10 £9.426 billion £10.348 billion
28-Feb-10 £9.617 billion £9.68 billion
31-Mar-10 £11.397 billion £11.581 billion
30-Apr-10 £10.479 billion £10.108 billion
31-May-10 £10.364 billion £10.444 billion
30-Jun-10 £11.339 billion £11.12 billion
31-Jul-10 £11.077 billion £11.021 billion
31-Aug-10 £11.334 billion £10.791 billion
30-Sep-10 £11.026 billion £11.043 billion
31-Oct-10 £10.548 billion £10.607 billion
30-Nov-10 £12.011 billion £11.271 billion
31-Dec-10 £12.295 billion £11.147 billion
31-Jan-11 £10.662 billion £11.008 billion
28-Feb-11 £10.108 billion £9.835 billion
31-Mar-11 £11.418 billion £11.162 billion
30-Apr-11 £10.656 billion £9.534 billion
31-May-11 £11.72 billion £11.158 billion
30-Jun-11 £11.523 billion £10.799 billion
31-Jul-11 £11.305 billion £10.654 billion
31-Aug-11 £12.058 billion £11.319 billion
30-Sep-11 £11.354 billion £10.675 billion
31-Oct-11 £11.277 billion £10.909 billion
30-Nov-11 £11.572 billion £10.674 billion
31-Dec-11 £12.352 billion £11.044 billion
31-Jan-12 £11.232 billion £11.495 billion
29-Feb-12 £10.382 billion £10.319 billion
31-Mar-12 £11.347 billion £10.72 billion
30-Apr-12 £11.255 billion £10.467 billion
31-May-12 £11.783 billion £11.116 billion
30-Jun-12 £11.076 billion £9.979 billion
31-Jul-12 £12.004 billion £11.48 billion
31-Aug-12 £11.645 billion £10.813 billion
30-Sep-12 £11.032 billion £9.99 billion
31-Oct-12 £12.33 billion £11.921 billion
30-Nov-12 £12.137 billion £10.734 billion
31-Dec-12 £12.884 billion £10.916 billion
31-Jan-13 £11.932 billion £10.467 billion
28-Feb-13 £11.007 billion £8.701 billion
31-Mar-13 £11.709 billion £9.643 billion
30-Apr-13 £12.602 billion £9.968 billion
31-May-13 £12.781 billion £10.127 billion
30-Jun-13 £12.045 billion £9.247 billion
31-Jul-13 £13.797 billion £11.433 billion
31-Aug-13 £12.907 billion £10.12 billion
30-Sep-13 £13.023 billion £10.442 billion
31-Oct-13 £13.113 billion £10.866 billion
30-Nov-13 £13.076 billion £9.923 billion
31-Dec-13 £14.399 billion £11.066 billion
31-Jan-14 £12.934 billion £11.22 billion
28-Feb-14 £11.593 billion £9.514 billion
31-Mar-14 £12.912 billion £10.76 billion
30-Apr-14 £12.754 billion £9.979 billion
31-May-14 £13.073 billion £10.565 billion
30-Jun-14 £13.212 billion £10.561 billion
31-Jul-14 £13.529 billion £10.974 billion
31-Aug-14 £12.764 billion £9.986 billion
30-Sep-14 £13.561 billion £11.122 billion
31-Oct-14 £14.373 billion £11.822 billion
30-Nov-14 £13.889 billion £10.775 billion
31-Dec-14 £16.379 billion £12.721 billion
31-Jan-15 £13.619 billion £11.928 billion
28-Feb-15 £12.759 billion £10.589 billion
31-Mar-15 £14.572 billion £12.151 billion
30-Apr-15 £14.015 billion £10.812 billion
31-May-15 £13.999 billion £11.455 billion
30-Jun-15 £15.208 billion £12.15 billion
31-Jul-15 £15.089 billion £12.127 billion
31-Aug-15 £14.411 billion £11.339 billion
30-Sep-15 £14.856 billion £12.074 billion
31-Oct-15 £14.531 billion £11.924 billion
30-Nov-15 £15.588 billion £11.711 billion
31-Dec-15 £16.257 billion £12.327 billion
31-Jan-16 £14.079 billion £11.918 billion
29-Feb-16 £14.562 billion £12.003 billion
31-Mar-16 £14.976 billion £11.917 billion
30-Apr-16 £14.516 billion £11.384 billion
31-May-16 £15.611 billion £12.173 billion
30-Jun-16 £15.114 billion £11.756 billion
31-Jul-16 £15.014 billion £11.794 billion
31-Aug-16 £16.143 billion £12.588 billion
30-Sep-16 £15.291 billion £12.086 billion
31-Oct-16 £15.63 billion £12.486 billion
30-Nov-16 £16.276 billion £11.999 billion
31-Dec-16 £16.428 billion £12.452 billion
31-Jan-17 £15.911 billion £13.363 billion
28-Feb-17 £14.238 billion £11.296 billion
31-Mar-17 £15.927 billion £12.904 billion
30-Apr-17 £14.974 billion £11.068 billion
31-May-17 £16.899 billion £13.404 billion
30-Jun-17 £16.047 billion £12.18 billion
31-Jul-17 £16.611 billion £12.959 billion
31-Aug-17 £16.409 billion £12.712 billion
30-Sep-17 £15.691 billion £12.05 billion
31-Oct-17 £16.624 billion £13.242 billion
30-Nov-17 £17.264 billion £12.465 billion
31-Dec-17 £16.769 billion £12.489 billion
31-Jan-18 £17.227 billion £13.962 billion
28-Feb-18 £15.002 billion £11.507 billion
31-Mar-18 £16.256 billion £13.044 billion
30-Apr-18 £17.104 billion £12.617 billion
31-May-18 £17.831 billion £13.615 billion
30-Jun-18 £17.138 billion £12.713 billion
31-Jul-18 £18.284 billion £14.326 billion
31-Aug-18 £17.756 billion £13.578 billion
30-Sep-18 £16.369 billion £12.56 billion
31-Oct-18 £18.452 billion £14.945 billion
30-Nov-18 £18.393 billion £13.3 billion
31-Dec-18 £18.159 billion £13.945 billion
31-Jan-19 £17.614 billion £14.472 billion
28-Feb-19 £15.756 billion £12.244 billion
31-Mar-19 £17.109 billion £13.791 billion
30-Apr-19 £18.43 billion £13.82 billion
31-May-19 £18.476 billion £14.272 billion
30-Jun-19 £17.196 billion £13.022 billion
31-Jul-19 £19.381 billion £15.24 billion
31-Aug-19 £17.805 billion £13.623 billion
30-Sep-19 £18.024 billion £14.044 billion
31-Oct-19 £18.087 billion £14.304 billion
30-Nov-19 £17.856 billion £13.256 billion
31-Dec-19 £19.73 billion £14.611 billion
31-Jan-20 £18.177 billion £14.781 billion
29-Feb-20 £16.282 billion £12.949 billion
31-Mar-20 £15.067 billion £14.002 billion
30-Apr-20 £9.368 billion £10.842 billion
31-May-20 £10.282 billion £9.343 billion
30-Jun-20 £12.64 billion £9.89 billion
31-Jul-20 £14.637 billion £10.936 billion
31-Aug-20 £14.609 billion £11.135 billion
30-Sep-20 £14.939 billion £12.36 billion
31-Oct-20 £14.465 billion £12.207 billion
30-Nov-20 £14.918 billion £12.052 billion
31-Dec-20 £15.124 billion £12.481 billion
31-Jan-21 £11.383 billion £11.362 billion
28-Feb-21 £11.575 billion £9.79 billion
-

Credit card usage over the past year

Volume and average value of credit card transactions

The average value of transactions stayed fairly level over the year. During this time, the average value of each credit card transaction was £53.49.

The volume of transactions dropped in April 2020. Similar to the decline in gross lending on credit cards, this drop in transactions is likely due to the City regulator’s new affordability rules, which suspended some people’s use of their credit cards from December 2019. Between February 2020 and April 2020, the volume of transactions dropped from 275 million per month to 163 million per month (a 41% decline).

Average value per transaction Volume of transactions
Jan-20 £61 284.0 million
Feb-20 £57 275.3 million
Mar-20 £53 272.6 million
Apr-20 £54 163.2 million
May-20 £52 186.0 million
Jun-20 £54 226.9 million
Jul-20 £54 260.8 million
Aug-20 £51 272.9 million
Sep-20 £51 280.7 million
Oct-20 £51 272.9 million
Nov-20 £53 272.5 million
Dec-20 £51 291.3 million
Jan-21 £55 195.6 million

Average outstanding credit card balance

Your outstanding balance is the money you’ve borrowed but are yet to repay. Between January 2020 and January 2021, both the average outstanding credit card balance and the number of accounts with outstanding balances decreased gradually.

At their individual peaks in this time period, the average outstanding credit card balance was £1,829 (January 2020) and there were 38.7 million accounts with outstanding balances (February 2020).

Accounts with balances outstanding at the end of the calendar month Average outstanding credit card balance
Jan-20 38.1 million £1,829
Feb-20 38.7 million £1,792
Mar-20 38.2 million £1,737
Apr-20 36.5 million £1,690
May-20 36.1 million £1,657
Jun-20 36.1 million £1,650
Jul-20 36.1 million £1,654
Aug-20 36.1 million £1,664
Sep-20 36.0 million £1,643
Oct-20 35.7 million £1,629
Nov-20 35.6 million £1,625
Dec-20 34.9 million £1,643
Jan-21 34.1 million £1,591

Outstanding balances incurring interest

From January 2020 to January 2021, the total outstanding balance incurring interest dropped from £37.6 billion to £30.5 billion, a decrease of 19%. Meanwhile, the percentage of accounts accruing interest increased from 53.9% to 56.3%. Therefore implying that more accounts are going into debt, but the overall indebted amount has lessened.

The total outstanding balance incurring interest is classified as the balances that are not paid off by the end of the month. The average interest rate for credit cards in 2020 was 18.1%.

Percentage bearing interest Outstanding balances incurring interest
Jan-20 53.9% £37.56 billion
Feb-20 53.8% £37.33 billion
Mar-20 54.3% £35.99 billion
Apr-20 56.3% £34.70 billion
May-20 55.5% £33.17 billion
Jun-20 54.9% £32.67 billion
Jul-20 53.8% £32.14 billion
Aug-20 53.5% £32.16 billion
Sep-20 53.9% £31.88 billion
Oct-20 54.4% £31.65 billion
Nov-20 54.4% £31.50 billion
Dec-20 54.5% £31.27 billion
Jan-21 56.3% £30.51 billion

Finder's credit specialist Chris Lilly gives his insights

  • To maintain growth, card issuers are forced to either trim costs elsewhere or find new ways to generate revenue. For consumers, this means that we’ve seen a shortening of promotional 0% periods over the last few years and an increase in average APRs (the annual percentage rate is a summary of the annual cost of borrowing).
  • There’s also closer scrutiny during the application and approval process, so that card issuers can demonstrate that they’re only lending responsibly (not to mention, to protect their own backs from potential defaults). Thankfully, more card issuers are looking to non-standard lending as a new revenue stream, using smarter technology to identify safe ways to lend to those with bad credit, who were a once-overlooked demographic. For consumers, this means there is greater selection for those with less-than-perfect-credit scores, albeit with APRs that are still high.

Sources used


Click here for more research. For all media enquiries, please contact:

Matt Mckenna
Head of UK communications
T: +44 20 8191 8806
matt.mckenna@finder.com@MichHutchison/in/matthewmckenna2


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