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October 12, 2022

UK consumer behaviour highlights red flags for lenders

By Douglas Blakey

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first and then try, however difficult it may be, to look for any positive signs from the latest UK card and payments trends report from FICO.

The FICO quarterly report, released yesterday, covers the period from June to August.

The first red flag relates to the increase in the average balance for accounts with one and two missed payments in June and July, although it levelled out in August. Cash advances on credit cards increased by 6.7% in June and 3.4% in July. Stating the obvious, that is another worrying trend for lenders.

While consumers are reducing overall spend due to the cost-of-living crisis, the fact that total average sales on credit cards are up illustrates the increasing reliance on credit rather than disposable income or savings. The average active balance on credit cards is now at its highest for over two years.

Meantime, the percentage of cardholders missing two or three payments increased steeply in August compared to July by 8.5% and 9.3% respectively.

This suggests that cardholders who miss more than one payment may not have the funds to catch up and are struggling with over indebtedness. There is also evidence that the percentage of cardholders spending over their credit limit has been slowly trending upwards since March. This could be another signal that some cardholders are over-indebted.

As for any positive metrics? Well, there are some inconsistencies, highlighting the current challenges for lenders in optimising their risk strategy. Take the percentage of payments to balance numbers. In June it dropped by 3% month on month; in July it increased by 1.7% and then in August it dropped again by 1.8%.

The percentage of missed payments also sends confusing messages for lenders. In June cardholders missing one payment remained almost static, but in July it increased by 2.2% and in August dropped by 4.6% compared to the previous month.

Elsewhere, it is not hard to find a litany of doom and gloom amid a number of research reports released this week. Take the one from digital agency RVS media and its survey relating to UK online shopping. It reports, inter alia, that 42% of Brits admit to purchasing items with the intent to return them once used, to save money. Even more sobering, if it pans out, is the soundbite that 31% of Brits are depending on loans and Buy Now Pay Later methods to fund Christmas this year.

In addition, a study from specialist lender and savings provider Hodge flags up that around 81% of Brits they will stop saving money this year due to the demands of the current cost of living crisis.

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