When were credit cards invented?

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    Jordan Moore
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    #32519
    Jordan Moore
    Keymaster

    While the “buy now, pay later” concept behind a credit card has been around for literal centuries (among the earliest forms of credit were grain loans to farmers and traders), the plastic credit card we’re now familiar with was introduced in the 1950s.

    The story goes that a man was out for a business dinner when his heart sank — he realized he didn’t have enough cash on him to pay for the dinner. The sheer embarrassment led him to the idea of a credit card that could be used at a variety of restaurants and hotels. 

    Within a year this man, ​​Frank McNamara, head of the Hamilton Credit Corporation, had more than 20,000 cardholders in his Diner’s Club.

    While some department stores had issued their own versions of a credit card at least two decades earlier on dog-tag style metal plates, this method didn’t gain widespread popularity until McNamara. 

    But the true revolution came in 1958 when Bank of America introduced the BankAmericard in Fresno, California. This was the first revolving credit card that could be used in multiple establishments. It allowed consumers to carry a balance from month to month, with interest applied to the unpaid portion. The BankAmericard system eventually evolved into what we know today as Visa.

    The 1960s saw further innovation with the introduction of the Interbank Card Association (now MasterCard) and other major credit card brands, expanding the use and acceptance of credit cards globally.

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