These early credit pioneers led to the blood-sucking credit cards companies of today who are so bad that Congress has recently had to make them clean up their act. However, I think they will narrowly apply the mandated regulations while thinking up new ways to fleece customers.
From The Big Money...
By Caitlin McDevitt
Diners Club Card, 1951
As the story goes, 60 years ago, Frank McNamara, the founder of what's considered the first credit card, was eating out at a restaurant, and when the check arrived, he realized that he had not brought along his wallet.
The embarrassing situation led him to eventually create the Diners Club card, which allowed members to pay restaurant bills monthly.
The card itself was wallet-sized and made of paper and wasn't any fancier than a library card. But the idea behind it-a third party facilitating a "buy-now, pay-later" process-was revolutionary.
The first bank credit card, the BankAmericard, was unveiled when Bank of America gave out 60,000 unsolicited cards in Fresno, Calif., in 1958.
Unlike in the past, when getting a loan might have meant taking a trip to the bank’s basement, this card was a ticket for anyone to spend freely and decide when was best to pay it back.
American Express Card, 1959
Plenty of large and small players saw the opportunity in the card business and jumped in quickly. American Express (AXP) differentiated itself from other providers by offering the first-ever plastic credit card in 1959. As opposed to flimsier cards, the plastic alternative was designed to “better withstand day-to-day use
Some other milestones are: The American Express Executive Card, 1968; Master Charge, 1970; Chase Visa Card, 1984; Discovery Card, 1986; and the Visa/NFL Co-Branded Credit Card in 1989.
images of Diner Club and BankAmericard via creditcollectibles. American Express Card image via American Express Corporate Archives.