Time cer­tainly ad­vanced with ar­rival of the credit card, and I was one of first to have one!

Burton Mail - - Old Codger -

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!

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