Why adults regularly use credit for food and bills

Authors: Andrea Finney (Social Research and Statistics)
Funded by: Money and Pensions Service (MaPS)
Published by: University of Bristol
Publication date: September 2020

In January 2020, the Money and Pension Service (MaPS) launched the UK Strategy for Financial Wellbeing 2020-2030.The Strategy announced five agendas for change to help people make the most of their money and pensions and set out how they would measure progress against these. One of these ambitions was to reduce the number of people using credit for food and bills by two million. 

Analysis of the Financial Capability Survey 2018 has shown which socio-demographic groups are more likely to report using credit for essentials in this way very or fairly often. However, less is understood about why a substantial minority of the population (17% of households in 2018) use credit in this way.

This review draws on research evidence from the last five years to consider what these reasons might be. It starts by re-considering the Survey findings to identify the potential reasons indicated by the existing analysis. It then explores the socio-economic and financial factors and other factors which have been considered in the literature. It ends by considering the likely impact of COVID-19 on using credit in this way.

The research suggests that income and hardship are important factors, but other reasons also emerge. 

Why adults regularly use credit for food and bills: a review (PDF, 301kB)


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