We love credit. We hate credit.
So, when did this idea of credit come around? Who started it? I think you might be surprised to learn about today’s facts.
-1894 B.C., the Babylonians extended credit using carved clay tablets for bartering. If you wanted a fence built, the builder would mark on a tablet what you would owe (let’s say, four chickens and a bucket of grain).
-By the time we get to the Middle Ages, the idea of credit was well known and they used “bills of exchange” issued by banks.
-Credit was a popular way of doing business in the 17th to 19th century England. Talleymen sold items on instalment and marked the transactions on a talley stick. (Which is where we get the idea of “tallying up the bill”.)
-The first credit cards appeared in Europe around the 1880s.
-The United States jumped in the 1920s. (But you had to pay your bill in full every month.)
-A man named Frank McNamara, head of a large credit company, was out to dinner in New York in the 1950s. He was terribly embarrassed when he went to pay and discovered he had no cash on him. He and his friends sat there and came up with the idea of the Diners Club card and an empire was born. **This guy wasn’t very smart because he sold out to his partners two years later for only $200,000. Sheesh, makes you wonder how he got to be the head of a large company. He thought it was just going to be a passing fad!
-1958 marked the new age of plastic when American Express and BankAmericard (Visa) was born.