The Department for Enterprise is in discussion with UK credit card lenders and the UK Government about availability of credit cards for the island.

Minister Tim Johnston says his department is ‘taking the lead’ in dialogue with providers while gathering data to understand the size of the market here.

He told Tynwald on Tuesday that it’s trying to prove to lenders it’s worth ‘providing something in this space’ for the island.

It follows Amex, Lloyds and Tesco all withdrawing their charge or credit cards from islanders in the past year.

There were four questions asked of Mr Johnston on the topic, to which he explained the issue of a shrinking number of providers had been raised on multiple occasions and the government is aware of the importance of credit cards in daily life.

He said: ‘The reality is our government has a limited role to play and these are UK businesses with their core market in the UK.’

He added that the government can assure the ability of these providers to do business here is ‘as seamless as possible’.

The government has been working with Jersey and Guernsey on this as both jurisdictions have been experiencing similar issues. All three are in discussions with the UK Government to identify underlying issues.

Mr Johnston said: ‘There is unlikely to be a quick solution.’

The minister added that the ‘speed of that progress has been dictated by the companies themselves’.

Meanwhile, the department is trying to ‘broaden the scope of availability and choice’.

Mr Johnston went on to say there is the option of HSBC, which is committed to providing new cards to businesses and residents.

He stressed that options are limited, which is why the government is working with Jersey and Guernsey.

Douglas North MHK David Ashford noted that the minister was very much relying on HSBC giving out cards. He asked if he knew of any other credit card providers doing the same.

‘That is why we are concerned,’ Mr Johnston said. ‘HSBC is structured in a different way to other banks and it sees the island as part of the UK for their offering.’

He added that the challenge is the ‘scale of the market and size of the offering’ for a new card provider.

Mr Ashford argued that companies ‘don’t just wake up one morning’ and decide to withdraw services, asking about how much notice the department receives before they do this.

Mr Johnston said the government wasn’t given notice when they made these decisions.

Talks have been had and issues have been brought up about electoral roll and debt collection.

Barclays recently announced it would be withdrawing its credit card services from the Isle of Man, which was done in error.

As soon as it became apparent, the DfE was in contact with the Financial Services Authority and colleagues in crown dependencies.

‘This was an unfortunate situation,’ Mr Johnston said.

Barclaycard sent an email apologising to all those who received the closure message in error, as it was meant for card users in other jurisdictions.