Credit as we know it today actually has a recent history. When you think about it our credit today is predicated on universal uniformity, this can only be achieved through telecommunications. Therefore, the rise of credit has corresponded with the rise of the industrial and scientific revolution.
Charge cards themselves date back to 1914 when Western Union started giving out metal cards that bestowed deferred payment options for their holders. These were mostly for preferred customers who could afford to pay whenever they wanted. This is interesting though, because this selection of who was issued a card was the first ‘credit approval’ of our time.
In 1924 General Petroleum Corporation created the first gas card in America. Similar to the Western Union metal card, the holder was entitled to defer payment on gasoline and car services. Soon these cards began to proliferate amongst the general public.
It wasn’t until the communications revolution was in its infancy that the credit really began to take off. In the late 1930’s AT&T (company that we still recognize today) came out with the Bell System Credit Card.
Other companies began issuing the cards and they caught on like wild fire. However, this all changed during world war two when ‘regulation W’ took effect and all minor credit transactions were suspended to keep the economy stable and rally as many resources to the war as possible.
When the war was over, technology had improved so much that travel and communication had jumped light-years forward. Now it was only a matter of time before everyone had credit cards. People were buying more expensive things at a faster rate, and credit allowed them to do that very easily.
This was the beginning of the charge-it culture that we live in now. From these humble beginning we now have plastic charge cards, plastic debit cards and a wide variety of alternative payment systems.
Also, with the spread of the internet and wireless communications most people predict a future where solid material cash is almost completely gone and any and all transactions will be done with the press of a button and the click of a mouse.
I guess that means I won’t ever make the mistake of washing my jeans with a ten dollar bill in them. Of course, if anything happens to these financial networks, we could be thrust into a new dark age.