Travel firms will face increased credit card charges just as they lose the ability to pass on the costs to consumers, a senior industry finance chief has warned.

Barclays Corporate Banking director Chris Lee described it as “a no-brainer” for consumers to pay by credit card when companies can no longer charge for transactions from January.

He said: “Holidays are a big‑ticket item. It’s a no-brainer to get a month’s free credit [when buying].”

Lee told a Pinsent Masons-White Hart Associates travel conference in London: “This is coming up in every travel client meeting [we have].”

He reported Barclaycard payments were split “30% credit 70% debit” at present, but said: “That 30:70 split is going to change massively.”

UK Card Association data for the 12 months to September shows card payments across travel split 44:56 credit to debit, but with a 36:64 split in transactions through agents. Credit card payments typically cost more because of the liability risk to the card provider, although the costs of debit card transactions have risen recently.

Lee warned: “If [card] risk increases, it’s going to eat into the overall debt appetite [in the sector] and we may hear talk of extra card [insurance] cover.”

That would increase costs for agents and tour operators.

The EU Payment Services Directive (PSD2), which bans charges for debit and credit-card transactions, comes into force on January 13.

John McEwan, chairman of travel management company CTI and former Abta chairman, warned: “We’ll see a lot of fragility in the retail travel sector because of the card charges.”