Life on Credit

Life on Credit: the New Normal

In Financial Services, Reports, Research by Caitlin2 Comments

GK and onefourzero are delighted to launch Life on credit: the new normal – our latest whitepaper on Britain’s consumer credit market.  Read the full report here.

GK and onefourzero analysed demand data for credit cards and overdrafts, and found that reliance on consumer credit has become the new normal; British consumers are borrowing more now than ever before. What was once seen as a last resort for those in dire financial straits has now become mainstream as consumers use credit to plug the growing gap between wages and the rising cost of living.

Key findings:

  • Despite a slowdown in consumer credit growth overall, demand for overdrafts is increasing rapidly, with 23% year-on-year growth in 2017. There was a huge spike in demand for overdrafts in November 2017, with a 46% increase in demand compared to November 2016.
  • Demand for types of credit vary dramatically by region. Demand for credit cards is heavily concentrated in the South East of England, whereas overdrafts are most in demand in the North of England.
  • Demand for credit cards shows significant seasonal variation, with marked increases in demand in January (20%) and July (10%), indicating that consumers are using credit as they struggle to finance seasonal expenses.
  • Consumer credit is entering the mainstream: consumers are using credit to supplement the rising costs of living, rather than using credit as a last resort.
  • Increased consumer demand and regulatory interest provides an opportunity for new products and services which offer better rates for consumers, greater transparency and predictability and promote financial inclusion and good financial health.
  • Providers risk increased regulatory and political scrutiny as a result of increased demand, particularly over their lending policies towards vulnerable customers.

Robin Grainger, GK’s Co-Founder and CEO said:

“It’s surprising how preferences in consumer credit change depending on geographic region. Our findings reflect local environments, with unemployment hotspots such as Newcastle seeing the largest demand for overdrafts, while the more affluent commuter belt around London preferring credit cards. 

“Credit use is rising, with demand for overdrafts rising by 46% in November 2017 compared to the same time the year before. Credit providers will no doubt been keen to cater to this need for further products, but should be aware that financial regulators are also focusing in on the sector.”

Fleur Hicks, Managing Director of onefourzero said:

“Consumer credit is no longer the last resort for people in desperate need of financial support. Consumers across the UK increasingly see controllable debt as a way to maintain their spending power and pay for everyday items rather than just luxuries or holidays and Christmas presents.

“As consumer attitudes to debt change, credit providers will have to ready for increased regulatory scrutiny. Providers will have to show they understand when customers are likely to fall into ‘problem debt’ which could have a highly damaging impact on their wellbeing.”

To find out more about how onefourzero’s digital due diligence and insights can help you identify opportunities for growth and potential risks, contact


  1. What is the source of the data, the size of the samples, some of the graphs don’t have labels. Would have sent it to my board but without these being specified have no confidence.

    1. Author

      Hi Mark,

      Thanks for your comment – the graphs are now all fully labeled. All graphs are based on google demand data, and take into account the total volume of searches during that time period relating to the term specified. As more and more consumers research products online, demand data can help us understand consumer habits and is often an early indicator of changing behaviour.

      If you have any questions regarding the report or would like some more information, please do get in touch –

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