Credit Cards and Borrowing a Very British Way of Life; FINANCE

Article excerpt

Britons are twice as likely to have a credit card as people in any other country in Western Europe, a report has shown.

The average Briton had 1.4 credit cards in their wallet at the end of 2006, twice as many as second-place Norway, where people had an average of just 0.7 of the cards each, according to market analyst Datamonitor.

At the other end of the scale only one in every 16 cards in Germany is a credit card, rising only slightly to one in 10 in Sweden, Denmark and France.

Britons' extensive use of credit cards has seen them collectively run up pounds 54.93 billion in plastic debt at the end of 2007, according to Bank of England figures.

Datamonitor said people's approach to credit cards in the UK was different to their counterparts in Europe, with consumers having a more relaxed attitude towards debt.

At the same time, people in the UK are also increasingly taking advantage of zero per cent introductory offers to shift outstanding balances from one card to another.

Report author Andrew Fabricius said: "The high penetration of credit cards in the UK is due to consumers being happy to pay for goods and services by using credit and enjoy the flexibility of paying for purchases over a longer period of time."

He said by contrast, consumers in Germany had a far more disciplined attitude towards expenditure, and as a result credit cards were far less popular in the country.

Mr Fabricius added: "In the UK consumers use debit cards for day-to-day spending much like their European counterparts, but are increasingly using credit cards as borrowing tools, applying for new credit cards to transfer an outstanding balance and to take advantage of interest free offers. …