Credit Card Facts
Credit Card Facts

66 Interesting Facts about Credit Cards

Karin Lehnardt
By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published June 28, 2017
  • Initially, American Express was a freight shipper as a competitor to the U.S. Postal Service in New York during the 1850s. It specialized in delivering money orders and traveler’s checks (which they invented in 1891). Two of their founders, Wells and Fargo, later moved to California.[4]
  • The inventor of the first bank-issued credit card was John Briggs, a banker from the Flatbush National Bank of New York. Introduced in 1946, the card was called “Charge-It.” The catch was that a user had to have an account at Brigg’s bank and purchases could be made only locally. Technically, it was actually a charge card, because the bill had to be paid in full at the end of each month.[5]
  • In the 1950s, Diners Club Card became the first company to offer a credit card that could be used in more than one store. Although the credit card was accepted at just 14 restaurants in New York and was issued to just 200 people, within in a year of its introduction, more than 20,000 people were using it.[12]
  • In the early to mid 1900s, oil companies and department stores began issuing their own propriety cards, but cards could only be used at that particular store. While modern cards are used mainly for convenience, these early cards were meant to develop store loyalty and to improve customer service. The drawback was that people needed to bring dozens of different cards for a day of shopping.[5]
  • Bank of America apologized profusely in 2014 after it addressed a letter to political feminist writer Lisa McIntire as “Lisa is a slut McIntire.”[8]
  • Interesting Bank of America Fact
    Bank of America addressed a credit card offer to a "slut" (robwilson39 / iStock)

  • The first general credit cards were made from paper and had a limit of $300.[1]
  • In the movie Fight Club (1999), the main character starts a fight club called Project Mayhem. Its aim is to erase debt by destroying buildings that hold credit card companies’ records.[3]
  • VISA was originally called BankAmericard and was offered by Bank of America in 1958 in California. It was renamed VISA in 1976.[6]
  • The reason credit cards expire is because the magnetic strip gets a lot of abuse and needs to be replaced. A magnetic strip is good for only about 3-4 years of swiping.[7]
  • Credit card numbers follow the Luhn algorithm, which is a checksum test on a number. To see how this works, start from the right and double each second digit (1111 becomes 2121), and then add them all together. You should end with a number evenly divisible by 10. If it doesn’t, the credit card is not a valid card.[12]
  • A gas pump will authorize a gas purchase for $50. So if someone has less than $50 available on his or her card, the pump will reject the card.[6]
  • Random Credit Card Facts
    American households receive about 6 card offers a month
  • The American household receives about six credit card offers a month.[9]
  • In 2006, credit card companies earned $90.1 billion in interest.[9]
  • MasterCard and VISA are a network of banks and financial institutions. American Express is its own company. Discover Card is a subsidiary of Morgan Stanley.[6]
  • VISA stands for Visa International Service Association.[9]
  • The blue on the VISA logo represents the sky and gold represents the color of the hills in California where Bank of America was founded.[6]
  • Even as far back as the 1800s, merchants and consumers traded goods through the concept of credit. Both credit coins and charge plates were used as currency. It was only about 50 years ago that plastic became a way of life.[4]
  • In the 1970s, the U.S. Congress started to regulate the credit card industry. Among other things, they prohibited companies from mass mailing credit cards to people who had not requested them.[1]
  • In 1996, the U.S. Supreme Court in Smiley vs. Citibank lifted restrictions on the amount of late penalty fees a credit card company could charge. Additional deregulation has allowed very high interest rates to be charged.[9]
  • Charge plates, or Charga-Plates, predate credit cards. Used until the early 1960s, they were made from aluminum or white metal plates and were the size of dog tags. The backs had a paperboard insert with the issuer’s name and cardholder’s signature. They were sometimes kept in the stores (usually department stores) and retrieved by a clerk when someone wanted to use them.[9]
  • Charge coins, a predecessor to the credit card, were first issued around 1865. They were initially made of celluloid, which is an early form of plastic. Later, they were made from copper, aluminum, steel, or white metal. They were about the size of a quarter to a half dollar. Some were triangle or another unique shape. They were mainly issued by department stores.[5]
  • Just a 1% credit card interest rate increase in 2015 would cost Americans $7.6 billion a year.[10]
  • Procrastination is like a credit card: it's a lot of fun until you get the bill.

    - Christopher Parker

  • There are nearly 10,000 credit card transactions around the world—every second.[6]
  • Interesting Credit Transaction Fact
    There are nearly 10,000 credit card transactions around the world—every second

  • In the U.S, there are about 1.4 billion cards in circulation.[9]
  • In 2012, there were 4.9 billion credit cards sent in the U.S.[5]
  • Credit cards are used more than 20 billion times in one year just in the U.S.[5]
  • Stacking all the credit cards in the United States would create a tower 288 miles high.[1]
  • Amazing Credit Card Facts
    Stacking all the credit cards in the United States would create a tower 288 miles high

  • In 1958, Bank of America introduced the first general-purpose credit card. They mailed 60,000 (unsolicited) real BankAmericard credit cards to the residents of Fresno, CA. By 1959, over 2 million cards had been “dropped.” Unfortunately, eventually 1 in 5 accounts became delinquent and credit card fraud became rampant. BoA lost $8.8 million with this project.[1]
  • According to federal law, the maximum liability for unauthorized card use is $50 per card and $0 for any charges after the card is reported lost or stolen.[9]
  • The first credit card hologram was introduced by MasterCard in 1983. It was created to help prevent counterfeit credit cards.[9]
  • MasterCard was initially named MasterCharge. It changed its name in 1979.[12]
  • The first company to use a credit card made out of plastic was American Express in 1959 (previous cards were made from cardboard or celluloid). It also introduced the first card made of anodized titanium (the Centurion Card or the “Black Card”).[12]
  • All credit cards everywhere are the same size: 85.60 mm x 53.98 mm.[6]
  • In 1959, the idea of a “revolving” balance was introduced. This means that cardholders could keep a balance on their credit card without having to pay it off completely every month. While it meant that customers might have to pay finance charges, it also meant that they had more flexibility.[12]
  • While early credit cards (Diners Club and American Express) functioned in a “closed-loop” system—which consisted of the consumer, the merchant, and the issuer of the card—in 1966, a national credit card system formed which allowed a “open-loop system,” which required interbank cooperation and funds transfer. Whereas VISA and MasterCard use an open-loop system, American Express, Diners Club, and Discover Card still use a closed-loop system.[12]
  • Excluding zero-balance cards and store cards, the average credit card debt per U.S. adult in 2013 was $4,878.[11]
  • Interesting Credit Facts
    Women and men use credit cards differently
  • Women are more likely than men to be charged a late fee, pay the minimum payment, and carry a credit card balance.[9]
  • The total number of credit card transactions in the U.S. in 2012 was over $26.2 billion.[5]
  • In 2012, the average value of a credit card transaction in the U.S. was $94.00.[5]
  • While American Express was one of the first companies to issue a credit card, it wasn’t until 1987 that it issued a card that allowed customers to pay over time rather than at the end of every month.[12]
  • Discover Card was originally part of the Sears Corporation and was first revealed at the 1986 Super Bowl. Sears also owned the brokerage Dean Witter Reynolds, which Discover integrated into. When Dean Witter merged with Morgan Stanley in 1997, Discover did as well.[7]
  • While plastic cards have been ubiquitous the past 50 years, other forms have challenged the plastic medium, such as PayPal and credit card key fobs that can be implanted into cell phones and other devices.[9]
  • Interesting Credit Card Debt Fact
    Minimum credit card payments are so low because it allows people to go into deeper debt
  • Minimum credit card payments are so low because it allows people to go into deeper debt.[9]
  • It is illegal for a vendor to require a phone number, home address, or other personal information for credit card transactions. They can ask, but they cannot refuse the transaction if a customer refuses to provide the information.[9]
  • Under the merchandise agreements of MasterCard, VISA, and Discover Card, it is not required to present a driver’s license to complete a credit card transaction.[9]
  • Restaurants will typically authorize the bill plus 25% gratuity on a credit card. The card will be declined if the limit can’t handle the extra 25%.[9]
  • Credit card companies are all located in states with a high or no cap on interest rates.[9]
  • The average number of credit cards the American consumer had at the end of 2012 was 1.96. The average number of credit cards held by cardholders at the end of 2009 was 3.7.[12]
  • Credit cards are the most profitable sector of the American banking industry, with more than $30 billion in profits per year.[9]
  • Even if a person makes his or her credit card payments on time, the credit card bank can raise interest rates automatically if that person is late on payments elsewhere, such as on another credit card, phone, car, or house payment. Interest rates may even increase automatically if the bank feels like the user has taken on too much debt.[9]
  • Nearly 144 million Americans have general-purpose credit cards. About 55 million pay their card off every month. Approximately 35 million pay only the minimum each month.[9]
  • Credit card companies have a nickname for someone who pays his or her bill completely each month: a “deadbeat.”[9]
  • A credit card company is required to give its customers only 15 days’ notice when changing the terms of the cardholder’s contract.[9]
  • The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (part of the U.S. Treasury) regulates the national banks that issue most of the credit cards in the U.S., such as Chase, MBNA, and Citibank.[9]
  • The most expensive card is the invitation-only American Express Centurion Card, with a $7,500 first-year initiation fee and a $2,500-per-year annual fee. The average Centurion cardholder as an annual income of $1.3 million and $16.3 million in assets.[9]
  • The United States has an average 30% interest rate on credit cards, while internationally the average is 70%–120%. Brazil has the highest rate of all major economies with 200%.[9]
  • The first digit of a credit card represents the type of card: 1 and 2 are for airlines, 3 is for travel and entertainment, 4 and 5 are for a banking or financial institutions, 6 is for merchandizing and banking, 7 is for petroleum, 8 is for telecommunications, and 9 is for other assignments.[1]
  • Cards that start with 34 or 37 are American Express. VISA cards start with a 4. MasterCards start with numbers from 51 through 55. Discover Cards start with 6011.[1]
  • As of June 30, 2013, there were 52.5 million American Express cards in the U.S. and 51.8 million in the rest of the world. By comparison, there were 180 million MasterCard credit and charge cards in the U.S. and 551 million in the rest of the world. As of March 31, 2013, there were 278 million VISA cards in the U.S. and 522 million in the rest of the world.[5]
  • In 2012, the states with the highest amount of average credit card debt were Alaska ($7,045), Colorado ($5,728), North Carolina ($5,619), and Connecticut ($5,532).[9]
  • In 2012, the states with the lowest amount of average credit card debt were Iowa ($3,874), North Dakota ($4,006), Wisconsin ($4,252), and South Dakota ($4,257).[9]
  • Credit card debt is a more taboo topic than religion, politics, salary, and love life details in the U.S.[9]
  • Scary Credit Card Fact
    Pre-approved offers addressed to children could signal identity theft
  • Children must be 13 before they can legally be added onto a parent’s account. They must be 18 to have a card of their own.[9]
  • When a woman’s 5-year-old son received a credit card application in 2007, she had him fill it out. He wrote his real income ($200), his birthday (2002) and sent the form back to Bank of America. Soon after, her little son received a brand new card with his name and a $600 limit.[2]
  • In 2012, the total value of credit card transactions in the U.S. was $2.48 trillion.[9]
  • The amount of credit card debt outstanding rose nearly three-fold in the U.S. between 1990 and 2002, from $173 billion to $661 billion.[9]
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