Press release:

Never mind 2012 – one in five Brits still paying off Christmas 2011

  • Credit hangover: one in five (17%) Brits are still paying off debts from Christmas 2011[1]
  • New Year, old debt: one in five (19%) consumers are starting January with over £5,000 of debt on their credit card[2]
  • Tied down: over half (53%) of consumers will take over a year to pay off their credit card, 15% fear it will take three years and 7% can’t imagine clearing it at all[3]
  • Big spenders: six out of ten Brits (59%) put Christmas on plastic last year[4]
  • Putting £5,000 of debt onto a balance transfer card could save up to £1,685[5].

Cash-strapped Brits are suffering the hangover to end all hangovers: almost one in five consumers (17%) have yet to pay off debts from Christmas 2011[1], according to new research from, the independent price comparison and switching service. And for many, the idea of a fresh start is a pipedream – one in five borrowers (19%) are starting 2013 with over £5,000 of debt on their credit card[2].

Christmas may be over for another year, but for the six in ten (59%) consumers who bought their presents on plastic in December[4], the debt hangover is likely to linger on. With pay rises unlikely to keep up with hikes in living costs, over half (53%) of consumers expect to take a year or more to pay off their credit card debt, while 15% say that it may take as long as three years to settle their balance. A worrying 7% can’t imagine clearing it at all[3].

Unperturbed by money worries, however, only 29% of consumers cut back on costs this Christmas. Half (48%) spent roughly the same as last year and a further 23% consumers spent more this year than last[6], with one in ten (10%) spending over £1,000[7].

Michael Ossei, personal finance expert at, says: “It’s easy to get carried away at Christmas and merrily put everything on plastic, but there comes a time when people have to wake up and smell the coffee.

“Credit cards can be a practical and cost-effective way to shop – but only if you can clear your full balance at the end of the month. Most cards offer a 56-day interest free period, but once this is over consumers could be slapped with a hefty fee. Store cards can be even more expensive, charging as much as a stomach-churning 30% interest rate.

“Balance transfer cards can be a good choice for those struggling to clear their debt, offering more breathing space to pay off your balance, without letting the debt spiral out of control. There are some great options out there: Barclaycard currently offers a 36-month balance transfer card with a 4.9% interest rate and no balance transfer fee. And for those who are able to pay back their debt within two years, there are an even greater range of cards to choose from. But because balance transfer deals are so sought after, lenders can be choosy. You are more likely to qualify if you have a squeaky clean credit rating and a minimum household income of £20,000.

“If you do have to resort to a credit card as a means of managing your debt, then it is vital to the find the best card for your financial situation. Have a look at the current deals on the market and try to strike a balance between the interest free period and cost of doing a transfer. The key is finding the cheapest deal that comes with a timeframe you can comfortably work with.”

Card Interest Free Period Fee Saving on £5,000*

Barclays Platinum Visa

24 months



Barclays Platinum Visa

23 months



Halifax Mastercard

23 months



Natwest Extended Balance Transfer Visa

23 months



HSBC credit card

23 months



*Assuming 17.9% interest is paid for two years on full balance, minus balance transfer fee.

Source:, correct as at 2/1/13.

— ends —

Notes to editors

Research carried out online with the Consumer Opinion Panel in December 2012 amongst a sample of 1,055 GB adults

  1. When asked ‘Is there still debt on your card from Christmas 2011?’ 17% said ‘Yes’; 79% said ‘No’ and 4% said ‘I don’t know’.
  2. When asked ‘How much debt do you currently have on your credit card?’ 19% said ‘£5000+’.
  3. When asked ‘How long do you think it will take you to pay off your credit card debt in full?’ 14% said ‘One month’; 12% said ‘Three months’; 13% said ‘Six months’; 9% said ‘Nine months’; 16% said ‘One year’; 15% said ‘Two years’; 15% ‘Three years or more’; and 7% said ‘Never – I can’t imagine clearing it at all’.
  4. When asked ‘Do you plan to buy any of your Christmas presents using your credit card?’ 59% said ‘Yes’; and 41% said ‘No’.
  5. See table: £1,685 saving to be made if £5,000 balance is switched from a 17.9% APR credit card (paying interest over two years, minus 2.1% balance transfer fee) to Barclays Platinum Visa.
  6. When asked ‘Will you spend more or less this Christmas than last?’ 23% said ‘More’; 29% said ‘Less’; and 48% said the ‘Same’.
  7. When asked ‘How much approximately do you think you’ll spend on your card this Christmas?’ 10% said ‘£1000 +’.

About us

Launched in September 2000, uSwitch is an online and telephone price comparison and switching service, helping consumers get a better deal on gas, electricity, broadband, TV services, mobiles and personal finance products including mortgages, credit cards, car and home insurance. Last year we saved UK consumers over £278 million on their energy bills alone.

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