First British Credit Card Launched
It was the summer of 1966, and something other than the football was in the air. The first British credit card was about to launch. The bank that took the giant step was Barclays, working with a model and systems licensed from Bank of America.
In 1966 we still had real money – i.e. pounds shillings and pence; we even had the ha’penny, and it was only six years on from the sad demise of the farthing. Nearly every factory worker – and there were plenty then – was paid in cash; cheques had no guarantee card, and special arrangements had to be made to cash them at a branch other than your own. Only a very select few had charge cards. The time was ripe for innovation.
It is tempting to see a sign of the future in Barclaycard’s organisation being housed in a disused factory, in fact an old footwear plant in Northampton: making things was dying out; playing with money was soon to be king.
Innovation, however, is rarely easy, and retailers were reluctant to sign up to accept the plastic cards: was it safe? how did it work? where was the catch? The catch they now know about in the form of what it costs them. But Barclaycard managed to get 30,000 shops and businesses on-board, and as part of the deal they printed the details of every one in an eight-page advert in The Daily Mail on launch day, June 29 1966. That number had been the organisation’s first target pre-launch; the second, of a million users, was missed, though by year-end had also been achieved.
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