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 Barclaycardstaff. 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. <source> <source> <source>