What Did the First Credit Card Look Like?

A very creative entrepreneur named William McNamara started the “Diners Club” it launched in 1950. It was the world’s first general-purpose credit card. I remember before that there were you know Esso gas cards back in the 1930’s, there were department store cards going back earlier in the 20th century. But in terms of a credit card like we see today: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, those that you can use just about everywhere – they didn’t exist! And so it was a new thing.

And what a development it was because basically just, you know, sixty or seventy years later in the 1970’s when people really began to depend upon these things, not only depend upon them, but to just get by. So many people who find it difficult to make the paycheck stretch to their next paycheck end up using credit cards today just to live. By the way, these are the folks whose credit scores tank because of that utilization ratio that we’ve talked about in another segment.