Credit Card Companies

Written by Jared Vincenti
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While the first charge cards were issued by Diner's Club, there are now a large number of credit card companies issuing cards. The majority of these companies started as services offered by banks or retailers, and have since become their own independent companies. Among the major credit card companies today are VISA, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover.

Where Did They Come From?

American Express is the oldest of the institutions. Started in 1850, it offered money orders, and then went on to invent the traveler's cheque. Dabbling in various financial ventures for over a century, American Express offered its first credit cards in 1958 to compete with Diner's Club. Today, American Express is a mighty financial firm, known best for its credit cards.

VISA cards were originally BankAmericards, issued by the Bank of America. MasterCards were the Master Charge, issued by the United California Bank specifically to compete with the BankAmericard. Both businesses have expanded out from under the banks that founded them, and to this day remain in fierce competition with one another.

Discover cards were originally issued by the Sears company, which is today mostly a retailer. Once, Sears offered financial services as well as insurance, but it sold off many of its assets in the 1990s to concentrate on retail. The Discover card was once the only credit card accepted at Sears, which started accepting other cards in 1996.


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