MORE than half the UK population overspent at Christmas. One in 10 of us put the entire cost of the festive season on our credit cards.

Post festive money blues can affect anyone, whether you are in a well-paid job, in receipt of a pension or social security benefits.

However, new rules on credit card borrowing means you need to be wary if you’ve only been meeting minimum payments or have missed a lot of payments.

Since September 2018, credit card companies have had to identify customers in persistent debt, prompt them to change their repayment behaviour, put repayment plans in place where prompts don’t work, and intervene earlier to help people showing signs of financial difficulties.

New rules from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) have given customers in persistent debt 18 months’ notice to look at solutions. For those that have put their head in the sand the ultimate consequence is you credit card may have to be suspended or cancelled from next month. It is always better to get help and not ignore problems.

If you are still using your credit card as line of borrowing, losing access to it is something you may want to avoid but if your card is maxed out – and has become a zombie card – it will be best to sort this now.

For example, if you maxed out your card with a limit of £5000, with an interest rate of 19.9%, the minimum repayment each month would be £132.92. You would be repaying £50 off the loan, and £82.92 in interest.

The minimum repayment reduces every month if you don’t spend any more on the card. By only making the minimum repayment each month it will take you almost 19 years to pay off the credit card – and you’ll have paid back £12,277.84 in total.

If you increased your repayments to £200 every month, your £5000 credit card balance would be paid off in just two years and nine months. You’d pay back £6,511.27 in total, saving you almost £6000 in interest.

So, if you need to keep your credit card you should pay a bit more than the minimum – more than the interest, basic payment and charges. If your card has become a zombie, then it will be a millstone around your neck, and you will want to sort it.

If your card is suspended and becomes a debt, the FCA rules say a reasonable repayment period is three to four years – not the often misquoted 12 months lawyers for creditors wrongly claim is a reasonable period for time to pay in court actions.

Most importantly, the FCA rules say if you can’t repay your card your lender must treat you with forbearance and consider reducing, waiving or cancelling any interest, fees or charges.

Don’t just accept the sum and charges claimed – seek advice and ask your lender to waive some of the costs if you are struggling to make ends meet. If they refuse you can complain to your lender, and then to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

If you are really short of money, don’t rob Peter to pay Paul. If you do, make sure that Peter is not your mortgage lender or your landlord. The roof over your head should come first when you are prioritising debts. As well as your utility bills. Help is available free in Glasgow from local law centre solicitors, money advisors, and CABx. It’s never too early – or too late – to get help.

You might also be entitled to social security benefits you never knew about, and the council’s local welfare rights department will also help you for free.

At Govan Law Centre a woman came in to tell me she’d received a writ for repossession of her flat. Her income had dropped because she had been ill. She had been missing her mortgage payments to meet car and other loans, we were able to prevent repossession under the Home Owner and Debtor Protection (Scotland) Act 2010 and sort out her non-priority car and loans.

Don’t throw away money on rip-off charges and interest. Pay-day advances, for example, come with charges of 25%. An average percentage rate (APR) of 300%.

Approaching a bank or credit union for a loan is always better, with many personal loans coming in at a much lower rate of interest depending on your credit profile. But if you are broke, or have a poor credit rating, you won’t get an affordable bank loan.

Many people take out insurance policies when they borrow. These are meant to meet your loan payments if you fall ill or lose your job. Often insurance companies wrongly decline these policies so don’t accept no.

Don’t pay for debt advice. It’s free. You can call the National Debtline on 0808 808 4000. Stepchange on 0800 138 1111. Or access agencies online. To see a free local solicitor or advisor in Glasgow details are on the GAIN network: