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Banks are helping fuel a dangerous debt binge by offering credit cards to families with little or no income.

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In 2012, Lloyds asked for minimum earnings of at least £15,000 a year on almost half of its cards, but this requirement has now been axed.

John Lewis is one of the few providers to tighten its criteria, lifting its minimum threshold gradually from zero in 2012 to £6,750 this year. Labour’s Wes Streeting, a member of the Commons Treasury committee, warned of ‘irresponsible lending to families that can barely afford it’.

Yet when those deals run out, the borrowing costs rise rapidly, leaving some of the most vulnerable and least financially literate people up to their necks in debts they may never be able to repay.

What is unconscionable is that Lloyds Banking Group, of which the taxpayer still owns a portion, is one of the leading players in this market, as it was in the payment protection insurance scandal which cost it £17.3billion in compensation.

A spokesman for Vanquis said: ‘Whilst being unemployed does not automatically preclude someone from being accepted for credit, in most cases it would make it less likely that they will be accepted.’Fiona Hoyle, of the Finance and Leasing Association, said: ‘Each lender will have their own specific way of checking their customers’ credit worthiness, and this is taken very seriously because, ultimately, it is not in their interest to provide credit to anyone who cannot make the repayments.’Yorkshire Bank said it reviewed a customer’s employment situation, income, existing debts, credit rating and other commitments such as rent and bills when considering an application.

The biggest danger on the horizon for Britain’s robust economy is our credit card-fuelled borrowing binge.It has just been reported that the proportion of household income saved in the final quarter of last year sunk to its lowest level on record – 3.3 per cent.The leading accounting firm Pw C warns that ‘the UK consumer appears to be living beyond their means’ – just as higher import prices for food and energy feed through to household budgets.An optimist could argue that the willingness of consumers to spend as if there were no tomorrow is an encouraging sign that – despite all the ‘Project Fear’ warnings of an economic crash caused by Brexit – the British people remain supremely confident about the nation’s prospects.But there is increasingly evidence that our big banks, which acted so irresponsibly prior to the last financial crisis – with unsustainable models such as the notorious 125 per cent mortgage at Northern Rock – are up to mischief again.He added: ‘It’s time for the Government and the Bank of England to step in.’A Lloyds spokesman said: ‘Whilst we do not quote a minimum income threshold for credit card applicants, this is one of a number of factors considered as part of an affordability assessment.‘All of our lending decisions are driven by our commitment to be a low-risk, responsible lender.’A spokesman for Barclaycard said: ‘Affordability is much more than just a factor of income.

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