UK card trends for February 2022

In the latest analysis of UK card trends for February by FICO (www.fico.com), average card spending climbed by over 5% compared to January, and nearly 30% compared to February 2021.

The small lift in average active balance – just over 1% – follows typical post-seasonal behaviour, but the percentage of payments to balance drops by more than 6%, which could be early signs of financial stress.

“The cost-of-living hike that started to become evident in February did not have an immediate impact on credit repayment behaviours; indeed, the percentage of accounts missing payments reduced in accounts with one and two missed payments,” says FICO.

“However, with average spend showing a more than 5% increase month-on-month, and the average card balance also increasing by more than 1%, there could be a risk that consumers started to rely on credit during February to counteract pressure on disposable income.  However, the rapid increase of prices for essentials may have contributed to the increased average spend and the increased average card balance, yet payment trends remain reassuring that consumers are trying to keep balances relatively lower than in pre-pandemic times.”

FICO research shows that consumers paid down credit cards when stimulus payments hit the marketplace.  Given the dependence on online spend and online ordering, having sufficient “open to buy” was a critical survival mechanism.   Seasonal trends are still visible, but it’s clear that consumers are still in pay down mode.   Lockdown savings and the inability to spend as much, especially on large purchases such as holidays, has helped to reduce balances.  Consumers may be keeping available credit for when they do have the confidence to book holidays.