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When Credit Cards Went Mainstream

Summary:From oil companies and department stores to widespread acceptance, credit cards have come a long way since the early 20th century. Learn about the history and impact of credit cards.


Credit cards have become an essential part of our daily lives, enabling us to make purchases and fulfill our financial needs with ease. However, the concept ofcredit cardswasn't always mainstream. In this article, we will explore thehistoryof credit cards and how they eventually became a ubiquitousfinancial tool.

The Emergence of Credit Cards:

Credit cards were first introduced in the early 20th century, primarily used by oil companies and department stores to offer customers credit for their purchases. However, it wasn't until the late 1950s that credit cards began to gain widespread acceptance. In 1958, Bank of America introduced the first general-purpose credit card, known as the BankAmericard. This card was accepted by a network of merchants, enabling customers to make purchases at various locations.

The Rise of Credit Card Companies:

Following the success of BankAmericard, other banks and financial institutions began to introduce their own credit cards, leading to the birth of credit card companies. In the 1960s and 1970s, American Express, Mastercard, and Visa emerged as the dominant credit card companies. These companies not only offered credit to customers but also provided various benefits such as cash-back rewards, travel perks, and fraud protection.

The Impact of Credit Cards on Society:

The widespread acceptance of credit cards had a significant impact on society. Credit cards enabled people to make purchases without the need for cash, leading to an increase in consumer spending. Additionally, credit cards provided customers with the ability to build credit, enabling them to obtain loans and mortgages. However, the overuse of credit cards led to debt and financial instability for many individuals.

Applying for a Credit Card:

When applying for a credit card, it's essential to consider factors such as interest rates, annual fees, and rewards programs. It's important to choose a credit card that aligns with your financial goals and spending habits. Additionally, it's crucial to maintain good credit by making timely payments and keeping your credit utilization low.

Saving Money with Credit Cards:

Credit cards can also be used to save money. Many credit cards offer cash-back rewards on purchases, enabling customers to earn money while they spend. Additionally, some credit cards provide travel benefits such as airline miles and hotel points, which can be used to save money on vacations.

Avoiding Credit Card Fees:

Credit card companies often charge annual fees, balance transfer fees, and late payment fees. It's important to understand these fees and avoid them when possible. Additionally, it's crucial to avoid carrying a balance on your credit card, as this can accrue interest and lead to debt.


In conclusion, credit cards have come a long way since their inception in the early 20th century. Today, credit cards are a ubiquitous financial tool, enabling people to make purchases and fulfill their financial needs. However, it's important to use credit cards responsibly and understand the potential risks and fees associated with them. By following good credit card practices, individuals can use credit cards to their advantage and improve their financial stability.

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