A Brief History of: Credit Cards


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...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!