Its study found that 80% of the population has a credit card. Of those, 19% of credit card customers admit they cannot get through a month without their cards with around 31% juggling three or more cards.
The shock figures show 11% of card holders are maxed out to the limit on one card, painting a picture of growing financial strain for millions of households.
Bank of England figures show total unsecured debt on credit cards, car loans and overdrafts is now £198 billion – the highest level since the 2008 financial crisis.
Consumer Intelligence’s research found 42% of adults worry about unsecured debts they have in addition to mortgages with 11% admitting they worry a lot about how deep in the red they are.
Around one in five adults (18%) have debts of £10,000 or more, on top of their mortgages, the study found, with one in four owing at least £5,000
One in six adults (17%) have exceeded their agreed overdraft limit in the past three years, while a fifth (19%) admitted they have had to borrow money from family or friends in the past three years.
Debt problems affect higher earners just as much, the study found. Around 23% of adults with a household income of more than £50,000 do not usually clear their credit cards.
Around one in six (16%) who earn more than £35,000 a year rely on credit cards to tide them over each month with one in 10 admitting they are maxed out on one card.
Ian Hughes, Chief Executive of Consumer Intelligence said: “The alarm bells have been ringing all year with the Bank of England warning that personal debt levels have been rising at the fastest rate since 2005.
“It is a major concern when millions of people admit to being worried about how much they owe and so many are relying on credit cards to tide them over each month.
“Borrowing makes sense for many when interest rates are low but it is essential people have a plan to repay their debts not least to reduce the stress millions are facing.”