Happy 70th Birthday to payment cards!

Time necessitates change. Change is true of all things, and payments is no exception. And while the payment landscape of years gone by has changed and evolved drastically, the tried and tested payment card has been a stalwart of the modern commercial experience. In the last 70 years, cards have evolved from local courtesy cards for specific consumers and corporations, to the globally accepted and recognised debit and credit cards we use every day. It is with this new milestone that we have decided to revisit some of their most important landmarks and tidbits.

 

  1. The first Diners Club credit cards were issued in 1950 by Frank McNamara, the founder of the Diner's Club. They were made of paper, had a limit of $300 and were used solely to pay for lunch at 14 restaurants in New York. In 1952 these cards were also accepted at hotels, car rental agencies and flower shops.
  2. The first plastic cards were issued in 1958 by American Express. In 1999, American Express introduced the American Express Centurion Card, known informally as the Amex Black Card, the first payment card made of anodised titanium. Today, cards are made of various materials: from polyvinyl chloride for ordinary cards, to titanium for Apple Card, special patented carbon fiber material for elite premium Visa Black card and 18-carat gold for Raris card, which is issued by the Royal Mint of Great Britain together with Mastercard and Accomplish Financial.
  3. Bank of America was the first to send out the credit cards to customers via mail. In 1958, it sent 60,000 credit cards for general use (Bank Americard) with a limit of about $5,000 (at the current rate) to the residents of Fresno. Bank Americard cards changed their name to Visa in 1976.
  4. In the American market, credit cards appeared first while debit cards were introduced much later. Not all countries followed the same pattern, for example, in Russia it is the other way around: debit cards were distributed first, and they still dominate the payment market.
  5. Many people are unaware of what their bank card numbers are indicative of.  The first digit identifies the payment network - 2 - "Mir", 3 - American Express, 4 - Visa, 5 - Mastercard. The other digits reference the issuing bank, card type (credit or debit) and card status (Classic, Gold, Platinum). But the last number on the card? It helps to calculate the "checksum" using the Luhn algorithm, which enables it to ensure that the card number is valid.
  6. The first and the only monument in the world dedicated to a bank card is the bas-relief of the hand holding the card, which has been installed in Yekaterinburg, Russia. The monument bears the name of Edward Bellamy who was the first to put forward the idea of credit cards creation in his fantastic novel "A Look into the Past" in 1888.
  7. In 2017, for the first time ever, debit card payments overtook cash. UK consumers made 13.2 billion debit card payments compared to 13.1 billion cash payments.