PLASTIC FANTASTIC

Love them or hate them, credit cards make the world go round. After all, how could you possibly shop online without one! And what about all those frequent flyer points!

The first credit cards were merchant specific cards starting in 1900 with several hotels, but the true credit card was invented in 1950 by Ralph Schneider and Frank X. McNamara, aka The Diners Club! Chase and Bank of America (Visa) came out with their first credit cards in 1958, and then cards became most popular when the magnetic strip was available in 1970.

Around the world, there are now 10,000 credit card transactions made every second.

The average credit card debt per adult – USA is approximately $3,752 and Australia it is $3,141

Over 609.8 million credit cards are held by U.S. consumers and the average person holds 3.5 each

UK – the number of adults with a credit or charge card is 31.2 million, representing 64% of the adult population. And the average value of online credit card transactions is $140.

Australia – there are an estimated 36 million debit cards and 16 million credit cards in circulation. Mortgage, credit card and personal loan debts are up 71 per cent from just five years ago

In Singapore the number of credit cards issued has crossed the 6 million mark, which works out to approx. 6 cards per eligible cardholder

The average age of obtaining your first credit card is 20.8 years old

New Jersey and New Hampshire, both at 20%, have the highest concentration of credit card holders with 10 or more cards.

Visa is by far the most popular card, followed by Mastercard and Amex.

Call it poor planning or a holiday hangover! If you charged $4,200 on your credit card in 2010, with an annual interest rate of 14.73 percent (the average APR), it would take you eight years to pay off the balance if you made no additional charges and made only the minimum payment each month. Even more painful, you’d rack up $1,343 in interest charges over that eight-year span.

Warning! Warning! They should be handled with care, and paid in full each month, if you want to avoid getting yourself in serious debt. So don’t rush out to buy that Chanel handbag or new set of golf clubs if you really can’t afford them.

ARE YOU RICH?

The definition of “Rich”: having wealth or great possessions; abundantly supplied with resources, means, or funds.

So what does that exactly mean in 2012?

In a recent survey by Gallup, you’re rich if you have $1 million in assets, or $150k in annual income per person (as answered by people surveyed in the USA). The government usually says it’s a salary of $250k (which only accounts for 1% of Americans).

In China, Super Rich is defined as a person who holds assets worth at least 100 million yuan (USD$15mill). The China Daily estimates there are 8,200 of these individuals currently residing in Shanghai. 75% are business owners and 25% are made up of investors (mostly real estate) But the super-rich club of Shanghai is only the third largest in China though. Beijing holds the pole position, while Shenzhen is second.

Author Nassim Taleb explores the whole concept in his book “Fooled by Randomness” where he uses a great antidote about some fictional (?) neighbours. Was it just plain luck that one guy was richer than the other? We will never know if hard work really pays off.