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I’m a history buff, and I work for CreditCards.com, so I got a kick out of finding the brochure whose cover is pictured at right. It shows a bit of credit card history from an innocent time when credit cards were a new concept.
It’s a long story, but I ran across the brochure when cleaning out a house in South Florida.
I just love the wide-eyed look on the face of the stereotypical ’60s woman, pearls and all: Wow! Free money! Little does she know.
(Aside: Is that hairdo a bob? Or have we discovered an important archaeological artifact: the proto-Bieber?)
The brochure is dated 1965, and it unfolds to reveal a list of about 500 South Florida businesses, concentrated in women’s and children’s apparel, and automotive services. Times have changed: Four of the businesses were corset-makers. Explains that waist.
The credit card that’s advertised is the Charg-It card.
We’ve run across the Charg-It brand a few times when doing research into our story from a few years ago, “The history of credit cards.”
Charg-It was the very first bank card, introduced in 1946 by Franklin National Bank. You had to be a customer at the bank to use the card, and it could only be used in the limited network of businesses with which the bank had agreements.
From this brochure, it appears the concept spread, on a limited scale — local banks would sign deals with local businesses to accept the cards from their customers.
It was clearly still a new concept, so new that it had to be explained. “Your Charg-It card is your passport to convenience,” the back of the brochure reads. “No need to carry extra cash … yet you buy what you want, where you want, when you want. One account, one monthly statement, one check pays for all. You shop with pride and confidence.”
And, oh, yes: “Remember to take out your card when you make a purchase.”
The year after this brochure was printed, the Bank of America launched the BankAmericard brand — which eventually evolved to become Visa. The same year, a network of banks joined together and formed the first national credit card system, now known as MasterCard.
The small, local networks such as Charg-It didn’t last much longer. Nor did the wide-eyed innocence toward credit cards.