As I took out my “card” to pay for groceries, I thought back to when I actually used paper money more than plastic. In fact as I thought about it, it really wasn’t that long ago. I decided to research the evolution of the credit card and here’s what I found out – credit cards are nothing new.
Here are some interesting facts and figures about credit cards:
Earliest History –
Some form of credit has been in existence since Babylonian time. In early archeological digs, geologist found documents outlining a “bill of exchange.”
The payment plan arose sometime in the 1700’s when a merchant offered larger items such as furniture to be purchased on weekly payments.
Have you heard of “tallymen?” They sold food, clothing etc. by using a large stick with notches to tally purchases. There was another stick that showed payments. Customers could then make weekly payments and the tallymen would adjust their tally sticks accordingly.
More Recent History –
In the 1800’s local town shops began issuing something known as the credit token. It was developed to save time for sales clerks. Instead of writing all the customer information on the sales slip every time they only had to record the number that was on the back of that customers credit token. Another clerk would transfer the purchase information into the accounts book.
Going one step further, local merchants began offering credit through their own issued cards. They could be used only at their shop. It was basically to attract and keep loyal customers.
Use of credit cards originated in the United States sometime in the 1920’s.
Recent History –
1950 The idea of paying multiple businesses using one single card seems to be traced back to Frank McNamara. He used a single cardboard card with his signature on to pay for his meals at several Manhattan New York restaurants. He went on to form Diners Club.
1952 Franklin National Bank of New York introduced the first bank credit card. So was born the buy now, pay it off in increments.
1955 Over 100 banks are now offering credit cards.
1958 The American Express Card is launched. And in 1959 they introduce the first plastic charge card.
1958 Bank of America introduces BankAmericacard
1966 Bank of America begins to license BankAmericard across the United States.
1966 Competitors of the new BankAmericard credit card begin designing an agreement that will allow banks across the United States to accept each other’s local credit cards. MasterCharge is launched and 36.5 million cards are issued.
1966 The debit card in introduced by The Bank of Delaware.
1977 BankAmericard changes its name to Visa.
1979 MasterCharge becomes MasterCard. The first “gold” card is launched in 1981.
1986 Discover Card is unveiled.
Most Recent Statistics:
Total number of credit card transactions in the U.S. in 2012: 26.2 billion.
Total number of credit card accounts in the U.S. as of Q3 2013: 391.24 million
Average value of a credit card transaction in the U.S. in 2012: $94.
Information Sources: Each credit company has a history and/or timeline you can read.
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