A History of Credit Cards

Credit cards are an extremely popular way of paying for goods, and they’re now held by millions of people all over the world. However, you might be surprised to find out just how old the concept is, and who developed it. The credit card was not conceived by a banker or a businessman – it was invented by a writer.

The man behind the idea was Edward Bellamy, a famous American novelist and lawyer. Bellamy wrote a number of popular works, including ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ and ‘Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ’. However, he came up with the idea of a credit card while writing his 1887 novel, ‘Looking Backward: 2000-1887’ – a story that Erich Fromm described as “one of the most remarkable books ever published in America”.

Looking Backward’ is a futuristic novel, set around the experiences of lead character Julian West. Beginning in the late 19th century, West falls into a deep hypnosis, eventually awakening in the year 2000. Here he discovers a utopian society, in which the US has been transformed by socialism. The novel influenced a great number of intellectuals of the age, and created a political mass movement all by itself.

It is perhaps a little ironic that a book based on socialist ideals would invent a method of capitalist currency lending. The term ‘credit card’ was mentioned eleven times in ‘Looking Backward’, and it never went away. The practical application of the credit card system began in the 1920s, in a number of merchant credit schemes designed to sell fuel to automobile owners. In the 1930s, the Charge-Plate appeared – a small dog tag-style sheet of metal, embossed with the customer’s name and address. Things took a step forward in 1950 with the Diners Club card, before the Bank of America launched the first true credit card in 1958.

Nowadays, there are a number of credit card providers on the market. American Express Cards, for example, are accepted all over the world and provide one of the most convenient ways of paying for goods and services. Cards like the American Express Platinum Card also offer a range exclusive benefits and customer rewards. A Platinum card is also seen as something of status symbol as depicted in numerous films and TV shows.

The credit card is certainly here to stay, and there are now more types of cards available than ever before. Perhaps it won’t be long before physical money is abolished altogether, and cards are used for all transactions.

Post by: Chris from iProspect

3 Responses to A History of Credit Cards

  1. krantcents says:

    Credit cards may be on the way out! Payment via smart phones may replace the credit card. Not immediately, but over time.

    • Iain says:

      I agree that payment via smart phones is the wave of the future but don’t expect the change to happen overnight. Google is putting alot of working into integrating a payment system into their android smart phones. But it will take time for that change to take place. I think credit cards have a solid future at least for now.

  2. donna young says:

    So in Bellamy’s novel, the protagonist was like Rip Van Winkle. Credit cards have indeed come a long way. The scary thing about having a credit card nowadays is identity theft. Others say Google wallet was suppose to make the credit card extinct. But still, that does not guarantee that you will not be a victim of ID theft. I believe better measures on ID protection should be implemented to avoid being victimized.

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