Time certainly advanced with arrival of the credit card, and I was one of first to have one!
WHEN I get to the letters page I always take in the “on this day” column. I am fascinated by historical facts from yesteryear. I rarely expect any event to have quite the impact on me until I got reading that July 1966 saw the introduction of the very first credit card, the Barclaycard.
I was one of the first to have one just two weeks later. My route to this point started when I commenced my student training at Kings Cross.
That was in September 1961 as I began my training to become a Railway Civil Engineer. That role was classed as a white collar staff job, but the salary was typical for juniors at that time. I can recall that it was little more than £5 a week, and as was normal then I joined the queue at the pay window on Thursday to receive my minimal cash.
I am not sure what happens nowadays, but my mother expected half of this pittance to pay for my keep. I think she probably agreed to have £2, but that did not leave much for me.
Three meals a day was a normality then and most of us would visit the staff dining room for a dinner and our evening meal when we returned home was our tea.
This routine continued for a couple of years until all the staff were offered an opportunity to move to four weekly pay direct into a bank account. I did not have a bank account, but the offer of an interest-free loan had me keen to find out how to get enrolled with the bank to get my loan.
I crossed the road from the office and walked into Barclays, it being the nearest bank. An interview with the assistant manager followed some days later and then I had an account with them, a cheque book and warnings about “no overdrafts.”
Now BR paid my salary into this new account.
Sadly the rate of pay did not increase much until August 1966 when I was promoted to a Site Engineer’s post at Watford. I assumed I would have to move my bank account there as well, and again presented myself to the assistant manager at Kings Cross to arrange this. He made me feel most important by advising he would like to keep my account at his branch.
The necessary operation of getting at my money was to be made possible by the issue to me of a Barclaycard. This would allow me to cash my required cheque in any branch. So I took up this offer and became one of the very first in the country to have a credit card!
I have to report it certainly did not operate like the credit cards that are now available in abundance. I cannot recall a single shop that would accept the card for a payment at the time. All I could use it for, despite my now larger income, was to get some cash out of my account to pay for purchases. But as I was now married, and paid monthly, I sometimes found a shortage of cash in my account at the end of the month.
The saviour was the Barclaycard. The bank was happy to advance cash on the card, as it is now, but the downside was it appeared on the statement at the month end. In the early years the Barclaycard account had to be paid off in full at the end of each month and this requirement continued for many years.
That was all 50 years ago and the credit card is now widely accepted and used as payment. The debt plus interest has become normal and is taken for granted.
I hate to think how many would survive today if the requirement to clear the credit card each month was still in place!