FICO UK Credit Market Report May 2021: Markedly Lower Year-On-Year Increase in Credit Card Spend Suggests Consumers Are Adjusting to ‘New Normal’

4 percent rise in credit card spend and 10 percent increase in payments to balance reflects continued use of pandemic savings, plus pragmatic financial management with end of government support on the horizon

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Customer Development

LONDON, 26 July 2021

Highlights

  • Third consecutive monthly increase in credit card spend – but growth rate slowing at 4 percent
  • Percentage of payments to balance increased for the second time since December, by 10 percent
  • Average balances on accounts with three missed payments 8 percent higher year on year
  • Cash usage continues to slowly grow – by 6 percent

Global analytics software provider FICO today released its analysis of UK card trends for May 2021, which suggests that some consumers are practicing pragmatic financial management, as well as continuing to make use of savings accrued during the pandemic. There are, however, warning signs of the financial pressure growing for those already in debt.

Whilst the effects of a full month of retail and hospitality re-openings were reflected in a further rise in card spend, the increase was just 4 percent compared to the 12 percent increase seen in April. This suggests that consumers foresee future pressure on income with the prospect of furlough support and payment holidays ending.

The percentage of payments to balance continued to increase - by 10 percent month on month. However, an 8 percent year-on-year increase in the average balance for accounts with three missed payments and a growth in the use of cash on cards – 6 percent – will ring warning bells for lenders.

June data will highlight the impact of a full month of the last stage of lockdown prior to the end of the final retail and entertainment restrictions. The ability of issuers to react swiftly and appropriately to sudden changes in their customers’ financial conditions will be tested over the coming months. Those who can detect and act upon the early warning signs accurately with a wide and flexible range of treatments and a robust collections strategy will provide the most benefit to their customers.

Spend on UK cards continued to increase, along with the percentage of payments

Average UK Credit Card Spend

The average spend on UK credit cards increased for the third consecutive month, by £26 to £651 in May 2021. However, the monthly increase may not be as high as some might have been expecting for the first full month of the easing of lockdown restrictions, especially compared to the growth seen in April.

Some consumers receiving furlough payments may be showing caution relating to their spending levels, ahead of the planned scaling down of the government contribution as of 1st July. This caution could also be the reason that the percentage of payments to balance continued to increase — by 10 percent month on month to 36 percent, the highest ratio over the last two years.

Average Credit Card Balances Falling as Cardholders Pay off More of Balance

Average balances on accounts missing three or four payments continue to grow

The percentage of accounts which have missed only one payment increased in May. June’s results will show if there is a segment of consumers where spend in April was unaffordable and so will miss their second payment.

Accounts missing one payment are £25 lower than a year ago. For accounts missing two payments, the average balances are £39 or 2 percent lower year on year, however, this was the peak month during the early stages of the pandemic, so this is not surprising.  Average balances on accounts with three missed payments are £221 higher (8 percent) and four missed payments plus are £228 higher (8 percent).

One way to ensure payments aren’t missed is to set up a direct debit, but the percentage of accounts with a direct debit is 2 percent lower than a year ago.

Cash usage continues to slowly grow 

May 2021 also saw the percentage of consumers using cash on their credit cards increase for the second time since September 2020, albeit again marginally. This is being driven by the increased spending opportunities, however, it remains 35 percent lower year on year.

Issuers could look at consumer cash spending patterns. If cash is being used when this was not the case prior to the pandemic, this could be another warning sign of financial stress.

These card performance figures are part of the data shared with subscribers of the FICO® Benchmark Reporting Service. The data sample comes from client reports generated by the FICO® TRIAD® Customer Manager solution in use by some 80 percent of UK card issuers. Issuers wishing to subscribe to this service can contact staceywest@fico.com. 

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For further comment on the FICO UK Credit Card activity contact: 
FICO UK PR Team 
Wendy Harrison/Parm Heer/Matthew Enderby 
ficoteam@harrisonsadler.com 
0208 977 9132  

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