Published on February 17th, 2020 | by Sunit Nandi


From Paper to Plastic to Virtual: The Evolution of Credit Cards

Credit cards have become common in our lives. Most of us have heard about it and many of us are using it as well. We, at least once, have googled “best credit card in India” in the span of a year. No wonder, there as many as 49 million credit cards in circulation in India. However, as familiar credit cards are to us, there certainly is an interesting history behind it. For those who are curious, it is a matter of great wonder as to how the concept of credit cards emerged and evolved over the years. If you are looking out to secure one then check out the best credit cards by SC.

Credit in Early Times to the Early Twentieth Century

People in early times used to give loans on the assurance of a return in the near future. For instance, farmers would sell grains in return for the share in the crops they would be harvesting in the coming year. This system went on for thousands of years.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, physical objects like forms of coins and medals were used to identify the creditors which included the logo of the merchant and the customer’s account number. An imprint of the coin or medal on the customer’s sales slip was made by the merchant.

From the early 1930’s rectangular metal cards known as Charga Plates emerged. It looked like something between a credit card and a military dog tag. This was the first step towards credit cards.

From 1950’s Onward

Paper Credit Card

Frank McNamara in his famous ‘The First Supper’ came up with the idea of the first-ever paper credit card. After forgetting to bring his wallet, McNamara gave birth to the brilliant idea of a charge card. This card could be used for different purposes and can be accepted in most places.

Image source: Relatively Interesting

Paper cards were the first ever card used for credit purchases. Launched in the year in 1950, the idea was initially welcomed by 27 participating restaurants. By the end of the very next year, the card grew from a handful of cardholders to an astonishing number of over 40,000.

Plastic Credit Card

The decade 1950 saw the one paper credit card introduced by Frank McNamara as the only major card brand on the financial market. However, gradually by the end of the decade, new players also started engrossing in the financial market.

On such player was American Express which was started as an express mail service company. However, as years passed, the company entered into the financial market. In 1958, they issued their first charge card. The cards were initially printed on paper just like the early paper cards. Nonetheless, a year later (in 1959), they issued the world’s first embossed plastic cards.

Story of VISA and MasterCard

In 1970, Bank of America gave up direct control of the card, BankAmericard. It then became a separate card network much like Master Charge. This network was known as the International Bankcard Company (IBANCO). In 1976, IBANCO consolidated their brands under one international name—Visa. Three years later, Master Charge changed their name as well, becoming MasterCard.

With all these, the era of physical credit cards had also started to approach its end. From paper cards to the plastic ones, the evolution of credit cards until that point of time had served a lot to the people as well as contributed to the expansion credit market. However, with the advancement of technology, an entirely new form of credit cards were introduced, which does not even exist tangibly.

Virtual Credit Cards

Credit cards have changed a great deal in its form from paper to plastic cards. However, it is not where its progression stopped evolving. The technological development which the world saw in the late 20th century and the early 21st century, led way to a new form of credit card – the virtual credit cards.

Mobile wallet apps have initiated online transactions in a new direction. One does not require a physical card anymore. Options such as biometrics and One Time Password (OTP) have led to a better security option for the users of credit cards.

Virtual cards enable a user to do any transaction from anywhere through his mobile phone. He would not even have to swipe the card or fear the loss of the physical card. Even if the mobile phone is lost, he can easily access the card through another phone by entering his personal details and PIN number.

Thus, we see how long the journey from the concept of credit to credit cards to virtual credit cards has been. Keeping with technological advancements, one cannot be sure of what the next form of best credit card in India search would result in the coming future. Whatever it may be, it will only make things more convenient for us.

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I'm the leader of Techno FAQ. Also an engineering college student with immense interest in science and technology. Other interests include literature, coin collecting, gardening and photography. Always wish to live life like there's no tomorrow.

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