Consumer: One in five paying bills on credit card

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More and more of us are borrowing just to survive, but millions are still sinking into fuel poverty.

One in every five consumers is using credit cards to pay household bills, according to a new survey.

The stark findings from comparison website TotalMoney.com lay bare the crippling financial pressures being faced by more and more families as they try to cope with rising living costs.

The study revealed that of the 21 per cent of those surveyed who admitted using credit to pay utility bills, 11 per cent have turned to their card to pay for gas and electricity. More than half os those questioned blamed recent price hikes.

Other essential bills are also having to be paid with borrowed money.

Some 6.5 per cent pay their council tax on credit cards and 4.3 per cent do the same for their water bills, the poll revealed, thus adding even more to their basic cost of living by accruing interest.

The survey also found five per cent of those renting their home are paying with credit cards and 4 per cent of homeowners are using their card to pay off their mortgage.

TotallyMoney chief executive Will Becker said: “With so many people admitting that they pay household bills on credit cards, this is a clear sign of financial distress.

“In effect, paying bills in this way is a self-inflicted price hike as the addition of surcharges and potential interest charges are just adding to household costs.

“This is an even bigger issue for those who cannot pay their credit card bill in full at the end of the month.

“Just to put this in perspective, for those who can’t afford to make ends meet, paying bills on a credit card is a far better option than missing payments or turning to more expensive sources such as payday loans or unauthorised overdrafts.

“However, it is not a long term solution and for many it may be as simple as spring cleaning your finances and saving enough money each month to keep you out of the red.”

The research was published as a separate report found that tens of thousands of homes in Yorkshire, and an estimated 4.5 million across the UK, are living in fuel poverty.

Campaigners say the Government is not doing enough to tackle the crisis.

The UK Fuel Poverty Monitor, overseen by the charities National Energy Action (NEA) and Energy Action Scotland (EAS), said the VAT from energy bills alone could be used to bring all UK housing occupied by low-income households up to the standard of a new home.

The average investment on energy efficiency programmes for low income households in England was just £3.52 per electricity customer, the report said. This compared to £36.48 in Scotland, £31.31 in Wales and £27.55 in Northern Ireland.

It said the discretion given to energy companies to meet their efficiency targets had led to those technically eligible for assistance either not receiving it because the measures they needed were too costly, or they were being asked for a contribution they could not afford.

The NEA said it should be up to the Government to ensure that schemes were in place to help the poorest households.

The report was released to coincide with national Fuel Poverty Awareness Day, which aims to raise awareness of the problem of fuel poverty and the solutions available to keep people warm in their homes.

NEA chief executive Jenny Saunders said: “4.5 million UK households are living in fuel poverty - on low incomes and with unaffordable energy bills.

“The only sustainable way to tackle this problem is to invest in our old and cold housing stock.

“In England, only £3.52 in Government funding is available per domestic electricity consumer to improve domestic energy efficiency compared to an average spend of £31.78 in the other nations.

“Additional resources must be made available to improve the heating and insulation of our poorest households.”

A Department of Energy and Climate Change spokesman said: “The Government is doing everything within its power to help hard-pressed families keep their energy bills down.”

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