Credit card borrowing rises as personal deposits grow at weakest rate since 2011

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Consumers ramped up their credit card borrowing in April as the amount being shored up in personal deposits in high street banks grew at the weakest annual rate since 2011.

Consumer credit grew by 6.4% annually in April, up from a 6.1% annual increase in March, according to the figures from the British Bankers' Association (BBA).

The BBA's high street banking report said the increase was driven by stronger credit card borrowing, reflecting stronger retail sales, while growth in borrowing using personal loans and overdrafts slowed.

Concerns have been raised in recent months about households' reliance on credit, with debt help charities warning that some people could be at risk of over-stretching themselves as living costs rise and wage growth remains weak.

Meanwhile, at 2.7%, the growth in personal deposits seen in April was the lowest annual increase seen since December 2011, the BBA said.

Despite April traditionally being a time of year when savers top up their existing Isas or open new ones as the new tax year starts, the amount being put into these savings accounts was lower than a year ago.

Cash deposits into Isas increased by £1.5 billion in April compared with a £2.1 billion increase in April 2016.

Savers' returns have been hammered by low interest rates in recent years.

The introduction of the personal savings allowance in April 2016 has also meant people can now keep their money in a variety of savings accounts and not have to pay tax on the interest, not just in Isas, which were the traditional place to ring-fence savings interest from the taxman.

The BBA also said 40,750 mortgages were approved for house purchase in April, which was down compared with a monthly average of 41,959 over the previous six months.

There were 23,074 re-mortgaging approvals, which was 10% down compared with April 2016.

Borrowing by non-financial companies decreased by £583 million in April. 

Eric Leenders, BBA managing director for retail banking said: "As the spring sunshine picked up in April, so did consumer spending.

"Annual growth in consumer borrowing from the main high street banks grew due to increased customer use of credit cards.

"This was also reflected by an uplift in retail sales volumes, particularly among food retailers over the Easter period.

"House purchase approvals were largely in line with last year's average, though re-mortgaging approvals have dipped slightly in recent months despite historically low interest rates.

"Business lending in April was fairly flat, possibly reflecting the current uncertain climate."

Some mortgage lenders have unveiled their lowest ever rates in recent weeks - but experts suggest a lack of homes for buyers to choose from is slowing the market.

Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, said: "Home movers are less able to take advantage of low mortgage rates with a lack of stock on the market meaning many can't find a home to move to.

"First-time buyer numbers remain strong as government schemes and the bank of mum and dad combine to help them on the housing ladder.

"It is further up the ladder where things have slowed to a sluggish pace."