The History of Credit Cards


Credit cards were not always made from plastic and could not always be used to pay for purchases at all retailers.  In the 1920’s, credit was offered through individual companies like hotel chains or oil companies and you could make payments on your purchases at the specific retailer where you held credit.  It wasn’t until about 1938 when a credit card could be used at multiple retailers, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.

Also during these early years of credit, there were “charge plates” commonly used in department stores starting in the early 1930’s. They were similar in size and shape to a dog tag, made from metal that had the department store name and the customers address and name embossed on it.

The customer’s signature would be included on a paper insert on the back of the plate. Most of the stores would actually keep the charge plates in file cabinets and would get pulled out when the loyal customers came in to charge a purchase.   The most common brand of charge plates were called “Charga-plates” and were used until the early 1960’s.

When a purchase was made with a charge plate, the plate was placed on an imprinter containing an inked ribbon, and an impression of the embossed plate was recorded onto a paper charge slip.

Continue Reading