diamond geezer

 Thursday, June 29, 2006

Would you credit it?

The UK's first credit card was introduced 40 years ago today. I had a credit card once. My bank gave it to me when I was a student and offered me an impressive £100 credit limit. When I failed to use my card they doubled this to £200, then tried £500, but all to no avail - I wasn't temptable. I still get several desperate junkmail missives from banks every month begging me to consider taking out a Platinum Visa 0% Transfer Bonus Gold Card, or similar, but they're all wasting their time. My ordinary bank debit card does me just fine, and I'll happily leave the debt-accumulating, rate-tarting and balance-juggling to others.

• Barclaycard was launched on Wednesday 29th June 1966.
• The original Barclaycard company was set up in a converted shoe factory in Northampton. It was, quite literally, all a load of old cobblers.
• The first Barclaycards were sent, unsolicited, to 1,008,387 of Barclays' most creditworthy customers. Many sent the card straight back.
• From day one Barclaycard boasted a network of 30,129 retailers across the country.
• 1966 customers could spend a maximum of £100 on their card - roughly equivalent to the average credit limit for a new customer today.
• Initially at least, every single transaction had to be verified over the phone with a member of Barclaycard staff.
• Barclaycard's first UK competitor was the Access card (your flexible friend), launched jointly in 1972 by Lloyds, Midland, NatWest and the Royal Bank of Scotland.

• Credit cards are 85mm long, 54mm wide and 1mm deep.
• There are now 70 million credit cards in the UK (plus 67 million debit cards and 5 million charge cards).
• 63% of British adults have a credit card (it's 80% in the USA).
• Last year 282 plastic transactions took place every second in the UK.
• A typical Barclaycard APR (Annual Percentage Rate) is 17.9% - equivalent to charging you an extra 1.38% every month.
• The average UK interest rate on credit card lending is currently 15.5% (around 11 percentage points above base rate). An APR of 15.5% is dead convenient if you pay off your complete balance every month, and daylight robbery if you don't.
• 25% of UK credit card accounts bear no interest. The other 75% are being screwed.
• If you'd bought a mini skirt on plastic back in the heady days of June 1966 and merely paid off the minimum amount each month, your debt would now be the size of a small African country.

• Britain's personal debt increases by £1 million every four minutes.
• Britons owe a total of £56 billion on credit cards (but £999 billion on mortgages).
• 14 million adults (35%) rely on their overdrafts to get by each month, 3½ million are permanently overdrawn and two million workers start each month in overdraft even after they've been paid.
• The average debt of a client contacting the Consumer Credit Counselling Service for advice is now £32000.
• On average it would take Citizens Advice Bureau clients 77 years to pay back their debts in full.
• Plastic overtook cash as the main form of payment in the UK in 2004.
• Last year plastic was used for 63% of all UK retail spending.
• If you're the twat I got stuck behind the other day who was paying for a newspaper and a bottle of water by credit card, then I hope your reproductive organs shrivel up and die you lazy cashless bastard.
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