It was not until 1949 that the first credit card as we know it was invented today. That is to say, a kind of cardboard with which you can pay in practically all places.
As in many other inventions in the history of mankind, the invention of the credit card was the result of a series of coincidences.
It all happened one night in a restaurant in New York City, Major’s Cabin Grill to be more exact. In this establishment three people were having dinner:
- Frank X. McNamara , of the “Hamilton Credit Corporation”.
- Ralph Sneider , Mr. McNamara’s attorney.
- Alfred Bloomingdale , grandson of the founder of “Bloomigndale’s”, a chain of luxury goods stores.
At such a lively dinner, the three diners discussed a credit problem that a McNamara customer had had.
He got into debt with a high amount since he had lent his cards from different establishments to his neighbors who had serious financial difficulties.
So high was the debt that he could not cope with it, so he turned to McNamara’s company (the Hamilton Credit Corporation) for help.
But because of those coincidences in life, McNamara forgot his wallet at home. When he had to pay for dinner, his face fell with shame and he had to phone his wife to bring her the money.
He promised himself that something like this would never happen to him again and between the three of them they began to devise a personal and safe method with which they could pay on credit in various establishments with just one.
In this way the Diners’ Club was born , which literally translated means Gazebo Club .
Therefore, to the question , who invented the credit card ? The answer is Frank X. McNamara , Ralph Sneider, and Alfred Bloomingdale .
First credit card
To the question , what is the first credit card ? The answer is Diner’s Club in 1950 .
In its early days, the Diners’ Club did not have much impact.
At the beginning of 1950 only 200 people had it and only 14 restaurants in New York joined this new system. But by the end of the same year, it was already used by more than 22,000 people and about 500 restaurants accepted it.
This new business model consisted of intermediating between the buyer and the establishment. The first was charged (in exchange for deferring their payments at the end of the month without interest), an annual maintenance fee of about $ 3 and the second a small commission for each transaction.
Credit card evolution
Around 1958, the Bank of America put into circulation the first bank card or bankamericard (which later changed its name to how we know it today: VISA card), whose generalization made this way of paying as accepted as money. The modern credit card was born .
Specifically, it was Joe Williams , manager of the Bank of America , who decided to facilitate more than 60,000 credit cards among the inhabitants of the city of Fresno, California.
In fact, it was then that people began to talk about ” plastic money “, money that was soon to replace traditional money in restaurants, shops, airports, stations, hotels …
It was so successful that in the second year of having them, people were already spending 60 million dollars with their cards.
This fact led to the fact that credit cards were no longer an exclusive item, and that their use spread, over the years, to the method that we all know today.
It was also in 1958 that American Express launched its first credit card. In the beginning it was made of paper , a bad idea. But already in 1959 they were made of plastic .
Everyone began to accept credit cards because, in addition to guaranteeing the solvency of the person who exhibited it, it served its holder of guarantee to spend amounts that he did not yet have, but that the bank that guaranteed him knew he could do so.
It was a return to the goods in view of which we spoke at the beginning in connection with the Greek civilization.
Now citizens could buy a new coat, buy furniture, or go on vacation: it was enough to load it onto the magical plastic cardboard that did not ask questions or criticize. A turning point in the history of credit cards .
American banks became keenly interested in the new credit product in the 1950s, but the scale of the business was not understood until the following decade, by the end of which more than 1,000 banks operated with their own credit cards.
For example, in 1967 the First American National Bank of Nashville made a new credit card called MasterCharge available to citizens .
In 1979 the Interbank Card Association renamed it MasterCard .
Then he began to see an old-fashioned matter in the checkbook. Society was heading towards a new reality: a world without bank checks, with no other account than a credit card. The idea was tempting because a significant percentage of the workforce in bank branches would thus be eliminated, the costs of credit would be lowered.
Business transactions became much easier and faster with the card by eliminating factors of mistrust or lack of funds. In America there was talk of a society without checks or accounts: only with cards, the number of which would be directly charged even the monthly salary of the workers.
To this end, large advertising campaigns were created to promote the use of this revolutionary invention, as you can see in the following image.
The cards consumer , facilitated by large trade chains turned the money into an invisible article. Plastic and electronics , all controlled by a certain bank, became the purse or wallet.
The dream of the magic wand came true in the form of a small hard plastic card . There was no need to carry material money , not even to make a phone call, not even for small expenses at the kiosk to buy the newspaper or newspaper.
The Californian Walter Cavanagh’s use of these cards in 1986 is curious: his collection is made up of more than 1,200, all in his name.
His neighbors from Santa Clara call him ‘Mister Plastic Fantastic’. But it is not only the Americans who take for these things, the Barcelona-born José Luis Córdova owned four hundred and fifty-eight credit cards in his name in 1987.