A Brief History of Credit Cards

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Credit cards are a staple of American spending, but they haven't always been around. Here's a history of the plastic cards that most have a love/hate relationship with.

In 1950, Frank McNamara, the founder of Diners Club, is said to have become the unofficial creator of the credit card when he invented it out of frustration after dining out and forgetting his wallet. He vowed the never let that happen again, and next time, paid with a small cardboard card known today as a Diners Club Card.

It wouldn’t be until the 1970’s when credit cards like Visa and Mastercard allowed customers to carry a balance from month to month, which also allowed interest charges to roll over and increase as long as the card debt remain unpaid.

In the early 2000’s, credit card providers shifted over to the radio frequency identification card (RFID). This technology breakthrough gave card users access to touchless identification verification, increasing the speed times for transactions and giving card users an extra layer of security.

Fast forward to 2020, where credit cards now have an extensive array of new features like biometric identification, which allow for facial, touch and even eyeball identification access.

Mobile technologies like Apple Pay and Google Wallet also became more pervasive, allowing card users to “tap” their phones on a merchant’s card reading unit and complete transaction faster than ever.

According to the Federal Reserve, 2018 saw 41 billion credit card transactions, with a dollar value standing at $3.8 trillion. That’s up from $3.32 trillion in 2017.

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