8 Feb: Inventing The Credit Card

Diners Club, the world’s first credit card, was used for the first time at Major’s Cabin Grill in New York City on February 8th, 1950. Perhaps at odds with the debonair image the company went on to cultivate, the first iteration was made of cardboard, and required three signatories. 

Frank X McNamara claimed to have invented the product after previously dining at Major’s and realizing to his horror that he’d left his wallet at home. By the end of their first year in business, Diners Club signed up 42,000 card holders.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly unpick the role of Diners Club’s PR man Matty Simmonds in the company’s compelling origin story; commend the savviness of the start-up for targeting wealthy diners at elite restaurants; and explain why, in 1950s America, credit was a man’s game… 

Photo: The National Museum of American History / Flickr CC

Further Reading:

‘How Credit Cards Were Invented’ (NPR Planet Money, 2018):

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