The History of Credit Timeline

In 1730, Christopher Thompson, a furniture merchant, created the first advertisement for credit by offering furniture that could be paid off weekly.

The 18th century until the early part of the 20th century Tallymen kept a tally (thus the name tallymen) of what people had bought on a wooden stick. One side of the stick was marked with notches to represent the amount of debt and the other side was a record of payments.

Overdraft protection was introduced during the rise of the British middle class, one of the first forms of credit

In 1914 the system of credit took a real turn and “Metal Money” was created Western Union, in the interest of good customer service, gave some of their more prominent customers a metal card to be used in deferring payments-interest free- on services used

In 1924, General Petroleum Corporation issued the first metal money specifically for gasoline and automotive services. Metal money was first offered to their employees, then to select customers and because the system worked so well they offered the metal money to the general public.

In the 1930’s, American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) introduced the “Bell System Credit Card.”

1950 marked the real beginning of the credit cards most of us are familiar with today. Diner’s Club, Inc. introduced the first credit card that could be used at a variety of stores and businesses.

In 1958 American Express introduced the “Don’t leave home without it” card. The state of California Bank of America issued the first revolving-credit card The BankAmericard

In 1951 Franklin National Bank was the first bank to implement the system. Applicants approved for credit were issued the Charge-It card.

In 1967, four California banks formed the Western States Bancard Association and introduced the MasterCharge program.

By 1969, most independent bank charge cards had been converted over to either BankAmericard or MasterCharge cards. Banks interested in issuing cards became members of either BankAmericard or MasterCharge.

By mid 1970s, the credit card industry started exploring international waters but the name “America” caused problems.

In 1977 BankAmericard became VISA and In 1979 MasterCharge became MasterCard.

In 1979 the improvement of electronic processing, electronic dial-up terminals and magnetic stripes on the back of credit cards; allowed retailers to swipe the customer’s credit card through the dial-up terminal which accessed issuing bank cardholder information a lot faster.

There are five leaders in the credit card industry today:

  • Visa International

  • MasterCard

  • American Express

  • Discover

  • Diner’s ClubGareth

Marples is a freelance writer providing valuable tips and information on the history of credit cards.

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