CBC Digital Archives

A love letter, but with 18 percent interest

In 1968, Canadians first got their hands on credit cards, making it faster and easier to spend money they didn't necessarily have. Aside from their plastic, many Canadians also deal with the varying burdens of student loans, mortgages and all the other factors that contribute to personal debt. The CBC Digital Archives looks back on the times and troubles of personal debt in Canada, exploring how we get into debt and how we might avoid it.

media clip
A hand-delivered gold envelope from the bank signalled Joan Barberis's ascension to the privileged few Canadians to carry a Chargex credit card. And as an unsolicited invitation, this was no less than recognition of her elite status and financial responsibility ... a veritable lover letter from the bank. But as this 1968 commentary reveals, this love letter carried more fine print, rules and restrictions that you might expect, and she quickly concludes that if this is love, she can do without it.
• The Chargex card first appeared in Canada in 1968, just months before this broadcast. In 1977, the card was re-branded as Visa, although the cards were labelled "Chargex Visa," to retain the high recognition factor of the Chargex name.
  • As of November 2008, there were 64.1 million credit cards in use in Canada, amounting to approximately two cards for every Canadian adult.

• The world record for most credit cards belongs to California resident Walter Cavanagh (also known as "Mr. Plastic Fantastic"), who had 790 cards at the time of this 1969 broadcast. He still held the record as of 2005, although his collection had grown to 1,497 cards. His collection gave him a total $1.7 million line of credit and his world record-setting wallet weighs about 17 kilograms and holds 800 cards. 

Medium: Radio
Program: Saturday A.M.
Broadcast Date: Sept. 28, 1968
Commentator: Joan Barberis
Host: Pat Patterson, Bill Paul
Duration: 7:20

Last updated: November 8, 2013

Page consulted on September 25, 2014

All Clips from this Topic

Related Content

Personal Debt in Canada

In 1968, Canadians first got their hands on credit cards, making it faster and easier to spend...

Canadian Financial Forecasters

They tell you how to save your money and your financial future, what causes a recession and ho...

Developing debt in Canada

As a worldwide economic crisis grows in 2008, CBC-TV explores why Canadians still lose control...

Umbilical cord blood: stem cells for the futu...

Two families have their newborns' umbilical stem cells saved for possible future use in 1998.

Debt for degrees

Canadian university students are finding there's no such thing as a debt-free degree.

Days of debt

A 1995 profile of one Canadian family and its life in the red.