A Brief History of: Credit Cards

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It was status and convenience in two breezy words: Charge it. But in these leaner times, shoppers are thinking twice before pulling out the plastic, even as analysts predict credit-card defaults could total more than $75 billion this year. On April 23, Barack Obama and his economic adviser Lawrence Summers met with credit-card executives to discuss how to control our addiction to plastic--and curb the controversial practices that encourage it.

Charge cards have been around since the 1920s, when service stations, department stores and hotel chains began offering them to automobile-loving consumers who didn't want to trek back to their hometown...

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