Press release:

Christmas debt to haunt Brits in the new year

  • One in four consumers will carry an average credit card debt of £452 into 2018[1]
  • Shoppers put almost £8.5 billion on plastic to pay for Christmas[2]
  • Half (50%) believe they will still be paying off the debt next December[3]  
  • One in ten (8%) are still paying off credit card debt from Christmas 2016[4]
  • Almost half (48%) of consumers are entering the new year worried about their level of debt, with one in ten (9%) extremely worried[5].

The New Year is meant to be a time for a fresh start, but consumers who spent on plastic this Christmas will be carrying an average credit card debt of £452[1] into 2018, according to new research from uSwitch.com, the price comparison and switching service.

Despite the cost of living reaching a five year high in 2017, the British public have not held back on their Christmas spending, with almost £8.5 billion being spent on plastic this festive season[2]. Nearly a fifth (17%) of consumers have gone over their Christmas budget[6], with costs such as the turkey dinner and gifts for loved ones pushing almost a quarter (22%) of people into debt[7].

However, the excesses of Christmas will come back to haunt those who have spent on credit cards, as half (50%) fear they will still be paying off their debt next Christmas[3], and, worryingly, one in ten (8%) are still paying off debts from 2016’s Christmas spending[4].

As many of us look ahead to the New Year, almost half (48%)[5] of consumers are concerned about their level of debt. Nearly one in ten (9%) go as far as saying they are extremely worried about their overall level of borrowing[4]. With this in mind, uSwitch is encouraging consumers to take action now to ensure they have time to align their finances and lessen the burden – by doing things such as moving existing credit card debt to a card that offers 0% interest on balance transfers.

Tashema Jackson, money expert at uSwitch.com, says: “January should be a time for looking ahead, but up and down the country millions of Brits will be looking over their shoulder at the cost of their festive spending.  Rather than try and forget about it, the best thing people can do is to make it a New Year’s resolution to tackle their debt head on.

“There are a number of ways to do this. Alongside cutting back on spending, using the right financial products is an easy way to keep your bills down. Cards offering 0% interest on balance transfers can offer breathing space for those who have longer-term debt, as it allows them extra time to get on top of their debt – with interest-free periods of up to 32 months available.

“As well as choosing the right credit card, shopping around for the best deals on things like energy, broadband, insurance and mobile phone tariffs could help cut your spending in the new year and could save you over £1,000.

“However, if you feel like your credit card woes are out of control, help is at hand. Charities like StepChange offer free and impartial advice to help get your debt under control.”

Find out how you could save over £1,000 a year with uSwitch here.

— ends —

Notes to editors

Research carried out online with the uSwitch.com Consumer Opinion Panel between 8 November and 16 November 2017 amongst a sample of 4,024 GB adults.

  1. When asked ‘If you intend to borrow, how much extra credit will you need this Christmas?’ The average of all responses was £452.39
  2. When asked ‘How will you pay for your Christmas festivities this year?’ 31% said they would use (at least one) credit card. 31% of 51,767,543 (ONS UK adult population) = 16,047,938 people. When asked approximately how much do you think you’ll spend on Christmas this year? (Take into consideration presents, food, drinks, decorations, socializing etc.) The average amount was £527. 16,047,938 x £527= £8,456,263,300
  3. When asked ‘How long do you think it will take you to pay all your debt off in full?’ 90.44% of those with debt on their card already and/or debt from Christmas answered with a value over two months. 24% answered with “over 12 months”. 18.2% answered with “more than 3 years”. 8% selected they “can’t ever imagine being debt free”.
  4. When asked ‘Is there any debt still on your card(s) from last Christmas?’  8.13% of respondents selected ‘Yes’
  5. When asked ‘Which of the following statements best describe how you feel in general about your level of debt?’ 52.53% of respondents selected ‘Not at all worried’, 35.31% selected ‘slightly worried’, 8.77% selected ‘extremely worried’ and 3.38% selected ‘don’t know’
  6. When asked ‘Do you think you will spend beyond your means this Christmas?’ 17% of respondents selected ‘Yes’
  7. When asked ‘Will you borrow money so you can afford Christmas’ 5.17% of respondents selected ‘I borrow money to pay for Christmas every year’, 17.52% selected ‘I have borrowed money to pay for Christmas’

About us

uSwitch is an online and telephone price comparison and switching service, helping consumers get a better deal on gas, electricity, home phone, broadband, digital television, mobile phones and personal finance products including mortgages, credit cards, current accounts and insurance.

uSwitch customers have the option to create an account which will prompt them when their current broadband, credit card, energy, insurance and mobile deals are coming to an end. For energy customers, the account can also automatically monitor the market and notify them when they can move to a cheaper tariff - making future comparisons even simpler and faster. In 2016, uSwitch saved UK consumers over £320m on their energy bills alone.

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The uSwitch mobile app allows customers to compare energy and broadband deals. Energy customers can compare deals in seconds by scanning the QR code on their energy bill. The app won 'Most Innovative Use of Mobile' and the 'Chairman's Award' at The DRUM Marketing on Mobile Awards 2017. Consumers voted it Most Popular Website (Comparison category) in the Website of the Year Awards 2016.

uSwitch was the first comparison site to achieve the Plain English Campaign’s Internet Crystal Mark, recognising that it has clear language, is accessible and easy to use.

uSwitch has a UK contact centre which is manned by energy and broadband experts. The ‘Send Us Your Bill’ service allows customers to post their latest energy bills to FREEPOST USWITCH in order to receive a free call back to be guided through the comparison process. Alternatively, consumers can email customerservices@uswitch.com with their postcode and usage details. uSwitch’s address is The Cooperage, 5 Copper Row, London, SE1 2LH.

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