Evolution of Credit and Debit Cards

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1950The first credit card is the Diners Club Card, created by businessman Frank McNamara, Head of Hamilton Credit Corporation, in 1950.

1951First bank credit card introduced by Franklin National Bank in Long Island, New York.

1958In 1958 American Express (already active in financial services) enters the cards market, with the launch of a charge card for travel and entertainment purposes. An especially significant launch, the American Express charge card was the first card to be made of plastic. It proves to be extremely popular, with around one million cards issued within five years.

1950 1951 1958

1959According to MasterCard, financial institutions begin to offer credit card holders the option of maintaining a revolving balance in 1959. This offer is subject to finance charges, and gives clients greater flexibility in managing their finances.

1967The first cash machine in the world is installed by Barclays Bank in Middlesex, England. Early dispensers are designed to receive hole-punched vouchers to the value of £10 each purchased by the customer from the bank and then exchanged for cash through the dispenser when needed. This precedes debit cards which begin as a convenient method to exchange money for goods or services in 1975.

1959 1967 1975

1975The First National Bank of Seattle issues the first debit card to business executives with large savings accounts. These cards acted like a cheque signature or guarantee card, where the bank promises that funds will cover the transaction. The bank only issues debit cards to those customers who have a long history with the bank and are in good standing because, like a cheque, funds are not immediately removed from the account.

1979During the 1970s, Access Ltd. of the United Kingdom, Standard Chartered Bank of South Africa, and several other non-American banks join the ICA. The decision is taken to rename MasterCharge, which is henceforth known as ‘MasterCard’.

1988 The first nationwide PIN-debit provider is launched and the first signature debit transaction is processed.

1979 1984 1988

1984In 1984, Landmark implements the first nationwide debiting system in the US, built on the credit card infrastructure and ATM networks already in place.

1989Citibank strikes a deal with American Airlines to give consumers reward points in 1989, which leads to more people acquiring credit cards. The rewards programmes marks something of a new era for the industry, as it is an innovative means of attracting clients at a time when profits are declining. Rewards programmes have subsequently gone on to become an integral part of the industry. 1990

France introduces chip and PIN based upon France’s first standard for payments cards: Carte Bancaire B0’.

1998By 1998, debit cards outnumber cheque usage around the world. Debit cards’ dominance over cheques continues to grow every year.

1989 1990 1998

2005/6Global debit card expenditure exceeds global credit card expenditure for the first time.

2007Barclaycard introduces the first contactless cards in the UK in 2007.

2010UnionPay overtakes Visa as the world’s largest payments card scheme. There are eight billion payments cards in circulation in 2010, of which 29.3 percent carry the UnionPay brand, compared to 28.6 percent for Visa. However, Visa is still well ahead in terms of usage and spending.

2005/6 2007 2010

2013Visa is the market leader, with credit card billed volume of $3.4 trillion in 2013, 38 billion credit card transactions and 903 million credit cards in circulation. In second place is MasterCard, with credit card billed volume of $2.3 trillion, 25 billion credit card transactions and 741 million credit cards in issue in 2013. UnionPay is ranked third, having a billed volume of $1.6 trillion, 7 billion transactions and 931 million credit cards.

American Express have a billed volume of $952 billion in 2013, with 6 billion transactions and 107 million credit cards in circulation. JCB has a billed volume of $182 billion, processed 1.9 billion transactions and had 83 million credit cards in issue. Rounding off the top six is Diners Club, with a billed volume of $26 billion, 16 million transactions and 5 million credit cards in issue. The cumulative total of the leading half a dozen credit card companies for 2013 is $8.6 trillion in billed volume.


2013Debit cards dominate South Africa’s payments card market with an estimated 46.9 million at the end of 2013. The number of debit card transactions at the POS increased by 17 percent in 2013, whereas ATM transactions grew by 7 percent only. This is further evidence of a rise in consumer confidence in using debit cards at the POS.

2014Apple Pay is launched in the US. Apple Pay is designed to allow iPhone users to make payments for goods and services with their iPhones, both in stores and within participating apps, using an NFC chip built into the devices. The pay system supports credit and debit cards. A game changer in the way credit and debit cards may be used in the future. The most popular payment method based on purchase volume were UnionPay debit cards, which for the first time surpasses Visa credit and debit cards.

2015Interchange fees to process debit and credit card transactions are capped, 0.2 percent for debit card rates and 0.3 percent for credit cards, under an EU law, scaling back multimillion-dollar revenue stream for European banks.

2013 2014 2015