Millions of Brits use credit cards to survive

Man holding credit card
Man holding credit card

A quarter of Brits rely on credit cards simply to survive, with millions of people saying they pay for every purchase with plastic.

In a new survey, 22% of people say they wouldn't be able to cover household bills any other way, and 14% need credit to tide them over at the end of the month.

Alarmingly, six in ten people say they aren't bothered about their debts at all, with only 5% worrying that they won't be able to pay back what they owe.

The situation's worst in the North East, where 56% of people have credit card debt. In Wales, the North West, Yorkshire and Humber, people owe the most, at an average of £2,000.

See also: UK credit card hotspots revealed: should we be worried?

See also: Five surprising things that can damage your credit score

Surprisingly, though, it's not necessarily the poorest people that rely on debt to get by.

"Looking at the sheer amount of debt, people on £70,000 plus are actually more likely to be in credit card debt than any other pay bracket," the GoCompare researchers say.

"This begs the question over whether people who technically have more disposable income may actually be using credit to sustain more lavish lifestyles."

Of course, it's not just getting into credit card debt that gets you into trouble: it's how you deal with that debt. And according to the research, it's the people of the West Midlands that manage their debt the best, with seven in ten people paying off the full amount every month.

In Northern Ireland, only a quarter of people manage to do this - and across the board, men are more likely to make only the minimum payment than women.

The figures are particularly alarming given the looming threat of Brexit, which is already starting to bring higher prices. The government is relying on consumers carrying on shopping to boost the economy - but this won't work for long if it's all done on credit.

The Bank of England is extremely concerned, with a recent investigation revealing that 3.3 million people are so bogged down in credit card debt that all their money is spent on repaying interest, while the total debt is never reduced.

The Financial Conduct Authority is considering forcing credit card companies to demand faster repayments from customers with persistent debts, with any still in debt after 18 months being put on a repayment plan.