More than two million people have used credit cards to pay their mortgage or rent, an increase of almost 50 percent in a year, new research from Shelter reveals today.

The exclusive YouGov poll for Shelter reveals how people constantly struggling with their housing costs are being forced to take drastic measures with credit cards in order to keep a roof over their head.

The survey, conducted in August 2010 of 2234 people in Great Britain asked if respondents had borrowed money on their credit card to pay their rent or mortgage in the last 12 months. Six percent of respondents said yes compared to just four percent in November 2009, suggesting a national figure of over two million people.

The charity is warning that many of these people could be starting the New Year with the threat of homelessness hanging over them. Not only can defaulting on credit card payments lead to repossession in very severe cases but just one single thing, like a bout of illness, rent increase or drop in income, is all that’s needed to push people into spiral of debt and arrears that can lead to the loss of their home.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter said: “This research brings into sharp focus how keeping a roof over their head has become a daily struggle for millions across the country.

“This is a totally unsustainable situation and one which we fear could see thousands more families pushed into the spiral of debt, eviction or repossession and ultimately homelessness.

“Using credit cards to pay the rent or mortgage is simply robbing Peter to pay Paul. With the average credit card interest rate now standing at over 16 percent it is the worst possible course of action.”

Mr Robb continued: “Already someone faces the nightmare of losing their home every two minutes, and we would urge every single one of these people now relying on credit to keep their home to seek advice urgently.

Martin Lewis of, said:

“For all but the seriously financially savvy, using credit cards to pay rent or mortgages is a mistake. After all you’re simply paying off one debt with another and that isn’t any type of solution. If you’re doing it because you can’t afford to pay your housing costs lumping up the borrowing is never the answer – far better is to seek help as soon as possible and start managing the problem.

"And when it comes to getting help for those in debt crisis, there is a wonderful range of non-profit advisors out there, who’s info is purely based on what’s best for you not on pushing their own profits – I would urge people to seek help from Shelter and the others - it should stop a few sleepless nights.”

Shelter has a network of advice services across the country who are ready to give free advice on debt and housing issues, as well as a comprehensive advice website. Visit us or go to and get a grip on your New Year debts today.

Actress Jaime Winstone is also supporting Shelter’s debt campaign by starring in a new short film launched today. In the film Jaime re-enacts the true story of eighteen year old Sarah who in desperation turns to credit cards to cover her rent, leaving her in debt and in fear of losing her home. The charity hopes the film will help raise awareness of the dangers of using credit cards in this way and encourage people in trouble to seek advice. To view the film online visit

  1. In 2009 Shelter commissioned research which showed that 3.8 per cent of GB adults had paid their mortgage or rent by credit card in the last 12 months. Total sample size was 2022 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 3rd - 5th November 2009. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
  2. In August 2010 Shelter commissioned further research which showed that 5.6 per cent of GB adults had borrowed on their credit card to help meet their mortgage or rent payments (equivalent to 2.6million people). This is an increase of 46 per cent from 2009. Total sample size was 2234 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 10th - 12th August 2010. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
  3. The estimate of the number of GB adults borrowing on their credit card to meet housing costs (2.6 million) is based on the latest estimates from the Office of National Statistics which indicate that there are 47.3 million adults in Great Britain. Source: ONS (2010):
  4. Average credit card rate source: Bank of England Dataset IUMCCTL – Monthly interest rate of UK monetary financial institutions (excl. Central Bank) sterling credit card lending to households (in percent) not seasonally adjusted)

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