My first real job back in early 2000, was an entry level finance job for a major credit card company. One the first assignments given to me were to research a little history about the first credit card. Some of the things I learned about our beloved plastic were very interesting and I will share some of them with you today.
Visa was started by Bank Of America under the name Bankamericard. The card slowly expanded to other banks and eventually was renamed Visa International Service Association. Now it is one of the largest financial institutes in the world, accepted on every continent. Visa's sponsorship of the Olympic Games was considered to be the force behind the cards success. The company has been a sponsor of the Olympic Games since 1988.
Not long after Bank Of America created the Bankamericard, other banks joined forces to create the MasterCharge which is known today as the MasterCard. It was started under the name Interbank Card Association and became MasterCharge years later. MasterCard’s “Priceless” commercial in the 2004 Super Bowl, featuring The Simpsons is considered one of the best commercial ever aired at the Super Bowl.
The first card with no annual fees was started by Sears when it was the largest retailer in America. Discover has only recently became an independent company. The first Discover cards had an image of the Sears Tower on the front; it was redesigned after it was sold to Dean Witter Financial Services. MasterCard and Visa has joined together to fight against Discover Card, but their case was lost. Discover Card then turned around and sued both companies.
One of the most prestigious credit card you can own was not a credit card at all. AmEx was actually a shipping company for many years, providing their services to banks and other financial institutes. The company went through many changes to become what it is today. Next time you pull out your card, know that the Expressman on the front was a symbol for the one of the first shipping company in America.