According to historian Jonathan Kenoyer, the idea of using a worthless instrument to represent banking transactions dates back 5,000 years when clay tablets were used in ancient Mesopotamia to document the exchange of goods and services with the Harappan civilization. Although the tablets were difficult to use with the seals of the two civilizations, this was much better than melting tons of copper to produce the exchange coins of the time.
The origin of “plastic” or “bank” cards dates back to early 1914 when the Western Union Company created a card for its most select customers that allowed them to receive preferential treatment as well as a line of credit without fees. Later, at the end of 1940, a large number of companies issued their own cards, but they were valid only in their enterprises. Cards were used to attract customers and facilitate credit purchases.
However, the first bank card as we know it today, a plastic with which we can easily pay in several establishments without having to carry the card of each, did not appear until 1949, as a result of a mixture of coincidences in a New York restaurant.
During a business dinner, Mr. Frank McNamara invited several of his friends to an elegant and luxurious restaurant in New York. During this event, when he paid businessman McNamara, he realized that he had no money because he had forgotten his wallet at home; He had to call his wife to get him money so he could settle the account. This fact distinguished him and he decided to create a secure and personal payment mechanism in many organizations with ease of use of the same system.
This is how Diners’ Club (literally, dining room club) was born, the first credit card like the one we know today. Its business model was based on acting as an intermediary between the organization and the buyer, charging a commission on each transaction on the first and a fee on the item purchased on the second plus a monthly commission on the interest accrued on the credit.
At first, Dinners’ Club had little acceptance, there was a lot of mistrust that the bank card mechanism would work, only 14 New York restaurants joined and only 200 people had a card. However, by the end of 1950, it was used by more than 20,000 people and the number of establishments was growing exponentially.
By 1980, cards were already used in almost all countries. Today it is used by more than 70% of the population and the number of card users is increasing, and it is common to have more than one card. In this way, whether it is a credit, debit, management, principal, extension or prepaid card, card plastic undoubtedly offers more advantages than cash.