The holidays are fast approaching and millions of people will put their purchases on plastic. As of 2010, there were more than 600 million credit cards held by U.S. consumers, according to CreditCards.com. How did the trend get started? Who created the credit cards?
Believe it or not, Diners Club was the first real credit card. The story of its invention is the stuff of entrepreneurial lore. A businessman named Frank McNamara was eating dinner at a New York City restaurant called Major’s Cabin Grill. While eating, McNamara realized he’d forgotten his wallet.
McNamara called his wife, who came to the restaurant and helped pay the bill. Understandably embarrassed, McNamara vowed never to be in that position again. He and a partner created the Diners Club, which launched a year later, allowing members to sign a bill and pay later.
Of course, the first cards looked a lot different than they do now. Early Diners Club cards were cardboard and didn’t include a magnetic strip on the back.
Originally, Diners Club cards were accepted at 14 New York City restaurants and were held by just a select few. These days, cards of all sorts are accepted everywhere, from hotels to movie theaters to (much to McNamara’s delight) restaurants around the world.
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