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The history & evolution of card payments – infographic

21 February 2017 Data Insights

With card payment technology advancing faster than ever before, we’ve created a visual timeline that tracks cards to their earliest literary reference and looks to the future of card processing. From the launch of the first card schemes to the introduction of the first card machine, we’ve documented the most important landmarks in card payment history.

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evolution of card payments infographic

Let that infographic sink in for a moment. Card payments have transformed the way we pay for things – money and credit are now more accessible than ever. The UK’s move to a cashless society is accelerating and who know what the future holds. We’ve come a long way from the payment card inception in the late 19th century to today’s slick, sophisticated technology.


Here’s even more detail about the past, present and future of card payment evolution.


1887: The inception

US author Edward Bellamy wrote about credit cards in his utopian science fiction novel Looking Backward, the story of Julian West, a young American, who falls into a deep, hypnosis-induced sleep and wakes up 113 years later. Bellamy introduced a concept of “credit” cards in chapters 9, 10, 11, 13, 25, and 26 (these cards actually work more like modern debit cards).


1914: “Metal money”

In the United States, Western Union gave some customers a metal card – this provided deferred payment privileges. However, this card (known as “metal money”) could only be used for purchases within the stores owned by the company.


1950: Diner’s Club card launches

In the United States (once again), Diners Club released charge cards aimed at diners. When the card was first introduced, Diners Club listed 27 participating restaurants, and 200 of the founders’ friends and acquaintances used it. By the end of the year 20,000 people were using Diners Club.


1963: American Express launched

It wasn’t much longer before card technology made its way across the pond. In 1963, American Express launched in the UK – holders of the cards were able to use them in 3,000 UK outlets and 83,000 international ones.


1966: First credit card

The same year The Beatles released Revolver, Barclaycard issued the first all-purpose credit card on June 29th. The move was a direct response to the successful launch by BankAmericard in the US a few years earlier.


1967: First card machine

Barclays were once again pushing the boundaries in payment technology. They installed the world’s first cash machine in the small town of Enfield, Middlesex. It was created by Scottish inventor John Shepherd-Barron. John’s wife convinced him to create a 4 rather than 6-digit PIN for the simple reason that it was easier to remember.


1972“Your Flexible Friend”

In a bid to rival Barclaycard, NatWest, Midland, Lloyds and RBS joined forces and launched the Access credit card. It was also issued in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland by Ulster Bank. The main Access slogan was “Your Flexible Friend”, however, the card became defunct in 1996 when it was taken over by MasterCard.


1977: The Consumer Credit Card Act

The Consumer Credit Card Act comes into force – a law to safeguard card payments. The Act introduced new protection for consumers and new regulation for bodies trading in consumer credit and related industries.


1987: First debit card

Oliver Stone received an Academy Award for Best Director with war drama Platoon. Another seminal moment was the launching of the first debit card in the UK – featuring a magnetic strip on the reverse and other security features like holograms. Barclays acted quickest and issued the Visa Delta card under the Connect brand in June.


1992/93: MasterCard launches Maestro

Popular movies AladdinSister ActThe BodyguardBasic Instinct and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York were all released…MasterCard also launched its Maestro brand for its international debit card. 

In 1993, it was clear that the popularity of card payments had increased – half of UK adults were regularly using card machines.


1997/98: First internet banking service

People were beginning to understand the potential of the internet – it was only seven years old. Perhaps face-to-face bank services could also be done safely online. On May 27th, the Nationwide Building Society launched the first internet banking service. Today, all banks and building societies offer this service.

In 1998, UK debit card payments exceed personal cheques for the first time. More and more people begin to use cards to make purchases – especially in supermarkets.


1999: The Euro is born

The Euro comes into being and the currency is born virtually – allowing euro-denominated transactions for the first time. It’s not until 2002 that notes and coins began to circulateThe Euro rapidly took over from the former national currencies and slowly expanded behind the rest of the EU.

Furthermore, half of all UK adults now have a credit card.


2001: Card payments increase

More than half of UK retail is spending using payment cards. Meanwhile, online payments have come a long way, more than 100 million card payments are made online.

This is the first year that cash machine withdrawals exceeded one billion during the year.


2003: Introduction of Chip and PIN

Chip and PIN is introduced to the UK. These debit and credit cards are embedded with microchips, used to store data on the card. The design helped to improve card security for consumers. Customers simply enter a four-digit PIN to a keypad to authorise a payment instead of writing their signature on a receipt.


2007: Contactless payments launched

Contactless credit cards are introduced by Barclaycard to much fanfare, making it easier than ever for consumers to make small purchases. Since 2007, contactless payments have increased yearly – one in every five card payments is now contactless.


2012/13: Card payments soar

Credit cards spending reaches a staggering £34bn in 2012. While some 23.2m transactions were made using card payments in December alone.

Furthermore, in 2013, consumer electronics company Coin launches an augmented credit card that can store information from multiple credit cards and debit cards.


The present…

Contrary to popular opinion, credit cards still represent the future. Several major tech companies are busily working on a card that will basically perform the function of an entire wallet. There’s a big reward for the first company to convince consumers to completely ditch cash for plastic.


The future….

We could be making payments in a huge variety of ways, including fingerprints and face recognition. MasterCard unveiled its plans to simplify the online shopping experience with a new feature: taking a selfie!


  •         35% of people think we’ll use iris scanning
  •         32% of people think we’ll use voice command
  •         42% of people think we won’t use a purse or wallet
  •         51% of people think we’ll use fingerprint scanning
  •         46% of people think we’ll GPS tracking

Why wait? Take card payments in just 3 days.