Consumer credit - borrowing on credit cards and other unsecured loans - increased by £2.29 billion after rising £1.56 billion the previous month, the Bank of England said yesterday.
Total UK household debt increased to £1.065 trillion.
The January credit jump was higher than expected, notching up a near record monthly rise.
Economists had expected no more than a £1.6 billion increase but it ended just shy of the record £2.304 billion monthly gain of last June.
The sudden rise comes despite five interest rate hikes between November 2003 and last August that brought base rates to 4.75 per cent.
"I don't think that the MPC will be hiking rates next week but the probability of a surprise move has probably increased to about one in three," said Alan Castle, UK economist at Lehman Brothers.
However there is no sign of a High Street inflation threat.
Retail sales in February were further below the average for the time of year than at any time for six years and in the year to February sales barely grew at all, according to the latest CBI quarterly Distributive Trades Survey.
The response by retailers was to cut jobs over the year to February at the fastest rate since 1992, reflecting the fierce pressure sales and prices are now under in the sector.
Fifteen per cent of retailers said they were employing more people than a year ago but 33 per cent said employment was down. The balance of minus 18 per cent is the lowest since November 1992.
Asked about the volume of sales for the time of year, 14 per cent of retailers said they were good while 36 per cent said they were poor. That gives a balance of minus 23 per cent which is the lowest since January 1999.
Year-on-year sales grew very slightly - the balance of plus two per cent being a modest improvement on the fall in sales indicated by January's balance of minus three per cent.
However it contrasts with an average balance of plus 24 per cent over 2004.
For the second successive quarter more retailers said prices were down on a year ago than said they were up and prices are expected to go on falling next month.
But there are reasons for optimism. A balance of plus 14 per cent suggests stronger sales growth is expected in March while the three month rolling average, which smooths out month to month blips, shows sales continuing to grow, and by more than expected.
CBI chief economic adviser Ian McCafferty said: "Weak consumer demand for goods means, so far this year, retailers have suffered minimal sales growth and falling prices.
"It may be that high levels of personal debt, coupled with stagnant house prices, mean interest rate hikes have a bigger and quicker effect now than was the case in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. Consumers are also concerned about rising fuel prices and council taxes."
For the second month in a row, clothing retailers saw the fastest year-on-year sales growth followed by booksellers, stationers and grocers.
Chemists suffered the sharpest year-on-year falls in sales. Sectors affected by the slowdown in the housing market such as DIY products and durable household goods fell.