Credit cards? I warn my children off them, says head of Barclays

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The Independent Online

The Chief executive of Barclays - the largest credit card provider in Britain - said yesterday that he would not use a Barclaycard to borrow money because the repayment rates were too high.

Matt Barrett, one of Britain's best paid executives who earned £2.7m last year, made the unexpected comment to MPs on the Treasury Select Committee, which is examining the consumer effects of the credit card industry.

During a heated meeting between MPs and four of Britain's most influential banking chiefs, Mr Barrett said: "I don't borrow on credit cards because it is too expensive." He added that he advised his four grown-up children to avoid running up credit card debts.

When asked by committee chairman John McFall, Labour MP for Dumbarton, what he considered an excessive rate of interest, Mr Barrett replied: "I think if I had to pay more than I can get elsewhere in the market, I would consider going elsewhere."

His declarations were seized on by the group of MPs as an embarrassing gaffe. Barclays has more than nine million credit card customers in the UK and last year made profits from this part of the business alone of £450m.

As chief executive of one of Britain's biggest high street banks, Mr Barrett has gained a reputation for strongly defending the City's hefty profits and large executive pay packages. But yesterday he admitted that reading the small print was "an eye test" and promised to look into making the product more simple to understand.

However, Jim Cousins, Labour MP for Newcastle upon Tyne, said that cards such as Barclays' "0 per cent forever" product were "clear and obvious bait" to lure customers before charging them much higher hidden rates..

The chief executives of Lloyds TSB, HBOS, Royal Bank of Scotland and the European head of the American credit card giant, MBNA, were also accused of making products too complex and not doing enough to curb irresponsible borrowing levels in the UK.