Before Diners Club was even a decade old, attitudes toward spending were clearly changing, at least among businesspeople.By 1958 magazine could observe that “in the nation’s expense-account economy, nobody is anybody unless he can say, ‘Charge it.’” That same year, newspapers revealed that a Hollywood divorce settlement had spelled out who was to retain custody of the couple’s Diners Club card.
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Wartime lending restrictions kept charge cards from proliferating in the early 1940s, but soon after the war the Universal Air Travel Plan emerged, a cooperative venture joined by nearly every existing airline.
For a deposit of $425, a company could issue an unlimited number of UATP cards to its employees.
Western Union came up with what may have been the first actual card for charging, about 1914.
Around the same time, a few hotels began giving their regular business travelers charge plates—dog-tag-like affairs sometimes known as metal money—and in 1924 General Petroleum, of California, introduced the gasoline credit card.
But would the rise of the credit card be a boon or a curse to the citizenry?