The first credit cards were issued in 1928 and were called Charga-plates. They weren’t electronic, though. They were metal plates engraved with information to identify customers, and merchants would ink impressions of them on paper to record transactions made on credit. If you want to go back even further, you might even consider the “merchant coins” used in the late 1800s to be an early form of credit card. They performed the same function as Charga-plates but were only stamped with an account number and were typically round.The first credit card that could be used at many merchants was issued in 1950 by Diner’s Club, but it still was not electronic like our cards today. The first credit cards that used electronic swipe machines didn’t appear until 1975.
So the date when the first credit card was issued depends on how specific your definition of “credit card” is. You can get a better sense of the different milestones below.
Here’s when the first credit cards were issued:
Late 1800s: People have been buying items on credit since at least the Middle Ages. But in the late 1800s, merchants used coins with a person’s account number engraved on them to stamp that information on credit contracts.
1928: Charga-plates were invented. They were metal plates with embossed numbers and personal info, which merchants used to record credit transactions through making ink impressions. These could only be used at individual merchants.
1934: American Airlines released Air Travel Cards with individual numbers, allowing customers to book flights on credit. Other airlines soon followed suit.
1950: Diners Club released the first charge card that could be used at multiple merchants. The balance had to be paid in full every month.
1958: Bank of America created the first revolving credit card that could be used at multiple merchants. Customers could now carry balances from month to month.
1975: National BankAmericard, Inc. introduced the first electronic swipe machine for credit cards.
So as you can see, credit certainly isn’t a new concept, but credit cards have changed a lot as technology has become more sophisticated. Now, most credit cards come with chips for added security, and there are other smart cards that even use wireless technology. Who knows how many more firsts there will be for credit cards in the future?
I mean, the concept of "credit" is as old as dirt. I remember reading somewhere the Templars were one of the first to start doing official loans and "credit" lines.
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