4. Credit Cards

The first credit cards were created in 1946 by a Brooklyn banker named John Biggins, who generated a bank-issued charge card called the “Charg-It” card. Purchases made by holders of Charg-it cards were forwarded to Biggins’ bank, where the costs were reimbursed then later requested from the customer. This operation became known as the “closed-loop” system. Only members of Biggins’ bank could own a Charg-it card, and customers could only use their cards at local businesses.

This idea of a charge card showed up again in 1950, but for an entirely different purpose. One day, a frequent customer of New York’s Major’s Cabin Grill named Frank McNamara forgot to bring his wallet to a business dinner. This experience inspired his idea for a Diners Club Card, which customers could use to buy their dinners. By 1951, 20,000 people were Diners Club cardholders, and the idea for “plastic money” grew out of it.