Plastic Payments

Store Cards

​​​​​​​Store cards were introduced in the United States in the early 20th century. The invention of the Charga-Plate in 1928 mechanized the process of a customer making payments on an account at a particular store. The establishment of Diners’ Club in 1950 offered customers a single card to pay at multiple high-end businesses, first in the United States and later internationally.

​​​​​​​Diners’ Club Card, United States, 1955

​​​​​​​Donated by Alfred Bloomingdale

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​​​​​​​Charga-Plate, United States, 1960s ​​​​​​​

​​​​​​​Donated by Joe & Nancy W. Daragan ​​​​​​​

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​​​​​​Charga-Plate receipt

​​​​​​Charga-Plate receipt

General-Purpose Credit Cards

General-purpose credit cards were first developed in the United States The plastic BankAmericard (now Visa) and American Express card became available to consumers in the late 1950s. Master Charge (now MasterCard) followed in 1966. Individual companies have continued to offer store-specific credit cards, such as this plastic Sears credit card.

Master Charge Card, United States, 1978

Donated by Elvira Clain-Stefanelli

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Sears Credit Card, United States, Mid-20th Century

Donated by Vladimir Clain-Stefanelli

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Magnetic Stripe Cards

​​​​​​The addition of a magnetic stripe to plastic credit cards in the 1980s made the payment process faster and more secure for customers and merchants. Electronic credit card readers work by automatically decoding personal and financial information embedded in the magnetic stripe. This stripe technology helped to spread the use of credit cards to countries around the world.

​​​​​​VeriFone Credit Card Reader, Late 1990s

​​​​​​​Donated by MasterCard International Inc.

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BRAVO Credit Card, United States, 1996

Donated by Discover Corporation

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Consumer Credit and Popular Culture: “Do You Accept Cash?”

​​​​​​Companies often advertise which credit cards they accept, but do not mention cash. This New Yorker cartoon from 1964 mocks how, with the growing popularity of credit cards, consumers may be uncertain as to whether or not vendors would accept cash as a valid form of payment.

​​​​​​“Do You Accept Cash?” Cartoon, The New Yorker, United States, 1964

​​​​​​Donated by Alfred Bloomingdale

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