We devote thousands of hours of research to help you get Big Travel with Small Money. You support us by signing-up for credit cards through partner links which earn us a commission. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.
The idea of credit has been around for a long time.
A definition of the word “credit“ is “trustworthiness.” Any time you borrow something with intent to pay it back can be considered credit. Someone is trusting you to pay them back!
But it wasn’t until the late 1940s that someone invented the modern-day credit card.
I’ll tell you how credit cards were invented!
Who Invented Credit Cards?
We’ve come a long way since the trading of cowrie shells, furs, and wampum!
Now, instead of exchanging goods, like spices or cattle, we simply hand each other pieces of paper. And the most rewarding way to make purchases doesn’t require ANY physical exchange at all! You just swipe your credit card, and take what you want.
Folks in the 19th century designed a couple of gadgets that represented credit. But it wasn’t until 1946 that the modern-day credit card was introduced by a man named John Biggins!
What Was John Biggins’ Idea?
John Biggins was a Brooklyn banker working for Flatbush National Bank. He introduced his invention, a bank card called “Charg-It,” in 1946, to members of his local community.
Biggins’ goal was to bring more loyal customers to his bank. Only folks with accounts at Flatbush National Bank could use the “Charg-It” card. Because this was experimental, folks could use this bank card only at participating local stores.
When the customer used the card to make a purchase, the merchant would give them the items without paying on the spot. Then the merchant would deposit sales slips at the bank. The bank would reimburse the merchant, and later bill the customer who used the card.
Note: The “breakthrough” credit card is considered to be the Diners Club card, which came out 5 years later, in 1951. It was the first widespread credit card.
Major banks jumped into the mix around 1958. American Express and Visa introduced their credit cards first. And Discover, JCB, and MasterCard were close behind.
It wasn’t until the 1980s that airlines created frequent flyer programs. And began partnering with banks to give folks more incentive to use credit cards decades later.
Credit has been around for a long time. But a Brooklyn banker named John Biggins invented the model of our modern-day credit cards in 1946.
It wasn’t until the 1980s that folks could earn travel rewards for spending on their credit cards. I was definitely born into the right era! 😉