The Bank of England data revealed consumers in April put £700million on their plastic, an increase of 11.5 per cent and the biggest monthly leap since November 2005.
In total, £1.4billion net was lent to individuals – with the remainder coming via personal loans, car finance and other similar forms, which is a surge of some 5.7 per cent.
It is the third consecutive month where consumer borrowing has been higher than the pre-pandemic average of £1billion.
Jane Tully, director at Money Advice Trust, said: “The figures are an ominous sign of the mounting pressure on household finances.
“Using credit to cover essential costs, like food and energy, is often a sure sign of financial difficulty.
“And as we see from independent advice charity National Debtline, it can lead to difficulties further down the line if repayments are not able to be met.”
Alice Haine, personal finance analyst at investment platform Bestinvest, said: “The fear is that with inflation at nine per cent – a 40-year high – and soaring energy and fuel costs, the situation will worsen as the cost of living escalates.
“The risk is that those who take on debt now may be creating a whole host of problems for themselves when costs rise even further.”
Additionally, the Bank’s figures show that net mortgage borrowing dropped from £6.4billion in March to £4.1billion in April. Approvals for house purchases, an indicator of future borrowing, fell from 69,000 to 66,000.
Rosie Hooper, chartered financial planner at wealth management company Quilter, said: “It seems that the cost-of-living crisis has been the straw that has broken the camel’s back for the housing market.”
Market research group NIELSENIQ reports visits to bricks and mortar shops are up seven per cent on last year as consumers seek the best prices.
It added that spending at supermarkets fell 1.2 per cent to £10billion in April while volumes fell six per cent, reflecting the squeeze on household budgets.