THE CREDIT CARD has been around since 1958 when the Bank of America issued BankAmericard, which was the first revolving-credit card with universal merchant acceptance. The card started in California but grew from there. In 1966, Bank of America expanded its bankcard program by forming the BankAmericard Service Corporation. This licensed banks outside of California allowing them to issue cards to their customers.

By 1969, most regional banks converted their independent programs to either BankAmericard or Master Charge (now known as Visa or Mastercard). By 1970, more than 1,400 banks offered one or the other credit card. Today, Visa has more than one billion cards in use. Adding another 500 million of MasterCard users brings the total to 1.5 billion credit cards used annually. Seventy-one percent ...

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