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MP calls for credit cards to come in line with payday loans

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A fifth of all British adults are worried about their credit card debt, according to research from left-leaning think tank the New Economics Foundation.

It showed that over four in ten (41%) are struggling to make it to payday and of these, half (50%) are worried about their credit card debt. Labour MP Stella Creasy warned Parliament must learn the lesson of payday lenders about intervention to prevent problem debt. She would like to see a cap on the cost of credit.

Creasy led the parliamentary efforts to secure a cap on the costs of payday lending and will host a debate in Parliament later this year calling for the 100% cap on payday lenders to be extended to cover credit cards.

The research also found that 40% of adults say they often or sometimes struggle to make it to payday and of those, nearly a third (31%) do so because of having to make credit card repayments.

Credit card debt tends to be associated with low financial resilience. Only four in ten (41%) of those with outstanding credit card debt at the end of the month are deemed ‘financially resilient’ by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). The rest are either ‘surviving’ (36%) or ‘in difficulty’ (23%). More than half (52%) of those with credit cards are ‘potentially vulnerable’, meaning they have few resources to fall back on if faced with a health problem or job loss.

Knowledge is poor, with 28% of credit card holders unaware of the APR (annual percentage rate) charged.

Stella Creasy, MP for Walthamstow, said: “Millions of people are ‘zombie debtors’ – paying the interest but not the capital off on their credit cards – and two million more are in arrears. With the FCA data itself showing five million of us will take 10 years or more to clear our credit cards, there is a simple principle at stake – why do we cap payday loans to disrupt these spirals of debt but leave millions facing exactly the same problems of being stuck in a debt trap with credit cards?

“If the FCA is timid on this, then the government should act and bring in legislation to require them to cap credit cards too and protect millions of consumers. We took too long to act as a country on the damage the likes of Wonga were doing. We must not make the same mistake.”

Andrew Pendleton, policy director at the New Economics Foundation, said it was “immoral and unfair” for lenders to be able to charge so much for credit. He added that it was also bad for the economy, with money ending up in the coffers of greedy finance companies rather than being spent by families on essentials.

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