Credit card customers showing signs of financial stress 

20th April 2023

New analysis of UK credit card activity from FICO has revealed worrying payment patterns amongst customers who have held their cards for between one and five years, known as the established vintage. This group is showing increased rates of missed payments and other signs of financial stress.

The research found that established vintage of credit card accounts is 83 percent more likely to have missed two payments in February 2023 than the average of all card accounts.

It also found that the average balance value predicted to not be paid by the established group is 69 percent higher than for all card accounts for February 2023. The percentage of accounts with three missed payments is nearly 94 percent higher amongst established card holders than for all card accounts for February 2023

FICO monitors card use and payment performance and has analysed the performance of different groups of card holders as the pressures of the cost of living crisis increase. In particular, FICO has looked at the established group – accounts that have been open from one to five years.

Tracking the difference month on month over a five-year period, the percentage of customers missing one, two and three payments as well as the balance of these missed payments compared to the overall balance are all increasing significantly finding that the percentage of established accounts with one missed payment is 41 percent higher than all account vintages. It was 18 percent higher in 2018.

The percentage of established accounts with two missed payments is more than 83 percent higher than all account vintages. It was 53 percent higher five years ago. The percentage of established accounts with three missed payments is nearly 94 percent higher. It was 66 percent higher in February 2018.

In line with the higher late payments, the percentage of payments that are less than the minimum due are also considerably higher for the established group; in February 2023 the average for established accounts was 55 percent higher than all accounts.

Another key factor is that as customers miss payments, those on a promotional rate will probably have to pay interest, even if they were on a 0 percent balance transfer. As FICO has seen with the increased delinquency for the rstablished group, average interest per active account is also higher and currently stands 19 percent higher, having risen steeply since July 2020.

FICO says all of these trends will be of concern to risk managers. Customers who have taken advantage of promotional offers in the past may now be struggling to transfer these balances elsewhere and are left with higher balances, on a high interest rate with a higher minimum due each month. One of the main themes of the FCA Consumer Duty which comes into force in July is around identifying and supporting vulnerable customers just like these. Proactive treatment and support — such as specific collections treatment, loan consolidation or alternative product offerings with a lower APR attached — are all areas issuers can consider in order to meet the requirements set out in the Consumer Duty.