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A timeline of money


12 money milestones matched up with key dates in history.

1. 600-700BC: The first coins were being used in Turkey at the same time Iron Age hill forts were being built in Britain

The first coin is believed to have been used around 600 to 700BC by the Lydians. Lydia was an Iron Age kingdom in western Asia (modern-day Turkey). 

Meanwhile in Britain, the first hill forts of the Iron Age were being constructed, and Maiden Castle – the largest in the British isles – was created in what is now Dorset.

2. 700-800AD: Paper money was being used in China while the Mayans constructed temples in Mexico

paper money and mayan temple

The first appearance of paper money was in China in the 7th century. The emperor of China made his feelings quite clear about fakes, stating on each note that “All counterfeiters will be decapitated”.  It took almost 1,000 years before Europeans started to use them.

During this period, the Mayan people were busy constructing some of today’s best-preserved temples and pyramids in Mexico.

3. 17th century: The first cheque in England was used in the same century Shakespeare lived

Cheque and Shakespeare

Romans are believed to have invented the cheque in 352BC, although it didn’t catch on until the 16th century, in Holland, when tradesmen would deposit cash for safe keeping with Dutch cashiers.

The depositor could then leave an order to pay any debts with the cashier in exchange for a small fee.

The first ever English cheque was drawn in London in 1659, the same century in which Shakespeare lived (he was born in 1564 and died 1616) and the first theatre in London opened. 

4. 1881: Postal orders were created in the year Billy the Kid was gunned down by Ned Kelly

Postal order and billy the kid

The UK was the first country in the world to issue a postal order. They were created to allow poorer people to buy goods and services by post, because they were less likely to have bank accounts to write cheques.

1881 also saw the death of the famous outlaw, Billy the Kid. He was shot down and killed in New Mexico.

5. 1946: The first credit card was issued in New York at the same time as the modern bikini was launched 

Credit card and a bikini

The first ever bank-issued credit card was in Flatbush National Bank of Brooklyn NY. The inventor, John Biggins, came up with the idea to have a “charge it” programme between bank customers and merchants.

The trend caught on in Britain when the first credit card was issued by Barclaycard in 1966. 1946 also saw the introduction of the daring two-piece swimwear known as the bikini.

6. 1969: The first man landed on the moon two years after the first ATM was installed in London.

ATM and man on the moon

The world’s first ATM was installed in London in 1967. Scottish inventor John Shepherd came up with the idea while in the bath – he pitched the idea to a manager of Barclays bank, who accepted the concept straight away. 

Two years later in 1969, Apollo 11 went to the moon, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first to set foot on its surface. “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

7. 1987: The first debit card was issued in the UK in the same year as one of the worst the stock market crashes in history 

Debit card and stock market

The debit card was introduced in the UK by Barclays in 1987. It was to be used to pay for goods in shops or take some cash out of an ATM.

Meanwhile, on 19 October of the same year, stock markets around the world crashed in an event known as Black Monday.

New York suffered the largest financial crash known to Wall Street. There was an estimated loss of $500 billion dollars.

8. 1997: Internet banking was introduced in the same year Diana, Princess of Wales died

Online banking and princess Diana

Nationwide building society were the first to introduce online banking. This was a tool that would change banking forever. This year, the world was shocked as Diana, Princess of Wales, died in a car crash in Paris.

9. 2002: The launch of the chip and PIN system was announced in the year of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee

Chip and pin and the Queen

It was announced that chip and PIN would be launched in the UK in 2002, although the first transaction successfully took place in Northampton in May 2003.

In 2002 Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her Golden Jubilee with a party at Buckingham palace.

10. 2008: The first contactless card was issued and America had its first African American president

Contactless card and Obama

Barclaycard issued the first contactless card. This revolutionary card offered consumers a convenient way to pay, and would lead the way for the future of technology and payments.

Also Barack Obama became the 44th president of the US, making history as the first African American president. 

11. 2009: Cryptocurrency Bitcoin was brought to life in the year the King of Pop passed away

Bitcoin and Michael Jackson

Created by a software developer called Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoins, the virtual international currency, came into existence in 2009.

Also that year, shortly before he was due begin a run of 50 concerts at Wembley, one of the world’s greatest pop stars, Michael Jackson, died at his home in Holmby Hills.

12. 2014: The first bPay wristband was launched and Germany won the football World Cup

Bpay and world cup

Barclaycard launched the first bPay wristband in June 2014. This innovative wearable device was soon followed by the bPay fob and sticker. 

Also this year, Germany were crowned the world champions of football. They took the title after beating Argentina 1-0 in Brazil.

How far is the UK from giving up on notes and coins? Read our in-depth report Cashless Nation.


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