February 14, 2008 / 8:26 AM / 10 years ago

Britons are plastic card kings of Europe

LONDON (Reuters) - British consumers have more plastic cards in their wallets than people in any other country in Western Europe, a report shows.

<p>British consumers have more plastic cards in their wallets than people in any other country in Western Europe, a report shows. Independent market analyst Datamonitor found that the average British adult now carries 2.8 cards -- almost treble the number among the French. REUTERS</p>

Independent market analyst Datamonitor found that the average British adult now carries 2.8 cards -- almost treble the number among the French.

The figure for Britons has grown from 2.4 cards in 2002 and is expected to exceed three cards per adult by 2011.

Even Norway, which has the second highest number of cards per adult, lags some distance behind with 2.3 cards per adult.

The French have the least, at an average of one, followed by Denmark with 1.1, and Sweden, Ireland, Italy and Finland with 1.2.

Britons also have the most credit cards -- at an average 1.4 per adult.

That is double the amount of Ireland and Norway, which rank second highest with an average 0.7 credit cards per person.

At the other end of the scale, people in Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, Greece, Austria, Sweden, Denmark and France have an average 0.1 credit cards.

Andrew Fabricius, a financial services analyst and author of the report, said the disparity is indicative of different consumer habits.

“In the UK, consumers use debit cards for day-to-day spending much like their European counterparts, but are increasingly using credit cards as borrowing tools, applying for new credit cards to transfer an outstanding balance and to take advantage of interest-free offers,” he said.

“In most other countries, consumers do not view credit cards as a borrowing tool and, as a result, they are not so popular.”

However, the report also pointed to a slowdown in credit card borrowing among Britons.

In terms of total card numbers, the UK credit card market is predicted to grow at an average annual rate of just 0.2 percent.

By contrast, several other markets -- especially those with underdeveloped credit card markets -- are expected to see significant growth: the number of credit cards in Germany is poised for annual growth of 26 percent to 2011 and in France 21 percent.

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