Charge cards can be dated back to the early 1900s. In 1914, what seems purely as a customer service goodwill gesture, Western Union gave some of their prominent (preferred) customers a metal card to be used in deferring payments-interest free-on services used. One source said this card became known as "Metal Money."
As time progressed so did the charge card. Before the start of WWII, retailors, travel companies and gas stations offered this service to their special customers. These company based charge cards were limited by their use exclusively through the issuing company. These companies issued the cards, processed the transactions, and collected the debts from the customer.
In WW II, the use of credit and charge cards was prohibited.
After WW II, credit cards became more accessible to the general public After seeing trends indicating increased travel and spending among those who held charge cards, banks became interested in credit cards-after all they were in the business of lending money, and they saw the profit potential behind attaching interest to the cards.
When banks first got into the credit card business, they were only issuing cards to local consumers. In 1951, the Franklin National Bank in New York, issued the "Charge It" card. Which allowed customers to charge purchases at local stores. This charge card system worked much like credit card systems work today. The customer would make a purchase with the card; the merchant performed a credit authorization from the network, then completed the sale. The Banks paid the merchant and collected the funds from their customer later on. Other banks across the nation were impressed with the success of this process that within several years after the "Charge It" card they offered their customers similar services for making purchases at local retail establishments.
In the 1950s the first charge card was developed that allowed consumers to make charges for services and goods from a variety of retail outlets. This innovation was the Diner's Club charge card, which was established for business men to use for travel and entertainment expenses. The Diner's Club card gave its members up to 60-days to make payment.
The first "revolving-credit" card was issued in the State of California by the Bank of America. The card, BankAmericard, was marketed all across the state. This card set another milestone in the development of the credit card industry. The BankAmericard was the first card to give cardholders payment options. Payment options like today's cards, let consumers pay the debt in whole or they could make monthly minimum payments while the banks charged interest on the remaining balances.
By the 1960s, bank card associations begun to emerge. In 1965, Bank of America issued licensing agreements to other banks-both large and small-across the nation. These licensing agreements permitted regional banks to issue BankAmericards and to exchange transactions through issuing banks.
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