Managing persistent credit card debt

It is important to ensure we can help customers with persistent debt on their credit cards to manage their borrowing and the cards industry has worked closely with the FCA to develop a solution.

Customers who have paid more in interest and charges than they have repaid of the amount borrowed over a period of 18 months will have been contacted by their credit card providers at various intervals to encourage them to increase their payments, if they are able to do so. 

Where customers have been in persistent debt for three years and have not taken action, providers will reach out with options to repay the balance over a reasonable period of time, which the FCA sees as normally being between a further three and four years.

This has featured in the media in recent weeks because there will be a peak of activity up to the end of March, when the first round of letters offering repayment options and setting out measures that card providers will take goes out to customers. 

The FCA's forecast for accounts in persistent debt at the first wave of 36 months was around 2 million. Due to the success of the earlier rounds of communication, industry data shows that this is likely to be a lot less ? nearer to 1.1 million accounts, or around 950 thousand customers.

Credit card providers want to help. If customers aren't sure what they should do, or if they think that what is being asked of them is unmanageable, they should speak to their card provider, or to an independent debt advice body for advice. Ultimately a card provider will be required to suspend their customer's card if they haven't been in touch. 

By discussing their circumstances card issuers can consider more flexible arrangements, such as forbearance through an interest rate reduction, if this is the best option.

Although the FCA expects that it would generally be necessary to suspend the card where forbearance is offered and card providers may also otherwise consider card suspension where warranted, direct engagement will allow customers to advise of any difficulties that this would cause. Therefore it really makes sense for them to speak to their card provider as soon as they can.

UK Finance has worked with the FCA, our credit card members and a wide range of representatives who provide independent debt advice to produce the attached FAQs, which set out more detail around these rules.

For many customers, being in persistent debt does not mean that they are struggling financially, but we would always encourage customers who are concerned about their finances to contact their lender as soon as possible to agree a way forward, or to seek free debt advice - this is available from


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