Barclaycard, the UK’s first credit card, hits a major milestone today as it celebrates its 50thbirthday.
It was on this day back in 1966 when the very first Barclaycard was dispatched. By the end of that year, some 1.25 million Brits had received one through their letterboxes. While not all of these people went on to make a purchase using their card, for many, this plastic rectangle was a liberating addition to their wallets and purses.
Just like with Bank of America’s Americard launch in 1958 (which was later rebranded as Visa), Barclaycard kick-started the democratization of the UK lending industry. For example, women no longer needed a male guarantor to get credit, while paying for meals out and shopping became quicker and easier for consumers and merchants alike.
With credit limits of no more than £100 and just one month to pay back the money borrowed, this was by no means an overnight credit revolution, but the launch of the UK’s first credit card did set the wheels in motion for what today has become an enormous industry. Indeed, in November 2015, some 60 million credit cards were in circulation in the UK.
But at the grand old age of 50, will it soon be time for Barclaycard (and the many other credit cards now on offer) to reach for the pipe and slippers?
This isn’t likely to happen anytime soon. The credit card industry is doing a pretty decent job of developing and adopting new technology to streamline its processes and make credit even more accessible to customers. Contactless technology, mobile payments and wearables, improved security, as well as the use of Big Data in order to make swift, accurate credit decisions, are all colliding to make today’s credit card payment process simple, quick and hassle-free.
But despite all this innovation, don’t expect credit card providers to have it all their own way in the future. The emergence of P2P lending, online payment services, payday loans and pre-paid cards (to name just a few) means that today’s consumers and small businesses are faced with considerably more choice and control over how and when they access credit.
It is this increased market competition that will ensure that the democratization of credit – a process that started in the UK 50 years ago today – will continue to evolve.
You can learn more about how Barclaycard fits into the history of lending on our infographic