When was the last time when you asked yourself “How was a certain item discovered?” or “What are the steps that this invention went through to be in the form it is today?“
In our daily routine, we use many items that make our life simpler and easier. For example, it no longer takes 14 days to cross the Atlantic Ocean but just a few hours to fly from Amsterdam to New York.
Our iCard team believes online blogs should not only entertain but also provide educational information. In this article, we will take you on a journey through the history of credit and debit cards. How they evolved from an old piece of paper to the stylish iCard Metal card packed with top technologies.
The beginning of an industry – Early Forms of Credit
If we go back in time, we can find one of the first written examples of a credit scheme. It was mentioned in the Code of Hammurabi – named after the ruler of Babylon from 1792 to 1750 B.C.
More than three thousand years later, in late 1800, a lot of small merchants were exchanging credit coins and papers for goods.
Further on in time, this practice was adopted by numerous hotels and department stores. Around 1885 many loyal clients had the possibility to defer payments until a later date with the so-called paper store credit cards. Businessmen were no longer obligated to carry suitcases full of money to pay for their expenses. All they had to do was to sign a piece of paper and pay later on.
Metal plates – the second-generation credit tools
Time passed and the merchants and banks had to find a more suitable and convenient way to offer the credit services to clients.
In 1914 Western Union provided metal plates to selected customer, giving them the second-generation cards in their hands. Those, who were eligible for using this type of service were the businessmen, bankers and high-class people.
Those plates were very similar to the military tags. Each personalized plate was engraved with its owner’s details and had a piece of paper on its back for the cardholder’s signature. They were perfectly fitting into everyone’s pockets and wallets, providing freedom and effortlessness payments.
Plastic body – today’s cards prototype
More and more people wanted to use the credit schemes so the bank institutions had to find a way to mass-produce cards for fewer expenses. American Express was the first organization who found a solution to the problem and in 1958 they introduced the first credit card made from plastic.
There were still other difficulties on the cards’ way.
Despite the solved issue and the successfully introduced substitute to metal plates, the process of approving credit or using the card was slow and cumbersome. The card’s details were stamped on the body and the responsible officials had to imprint the details onto a two-sheet, pressure-sensitive paper form. Let’s not mention the endless possibilities of fraud, and copied personal information.
Imagine waiting in a queue just to pay your bill in a restaurant and at the end of the night to understand that someone had stolen your card’s details.
The technologies that made the cards “smart”
So far, we passed through three stages of the debit and credit card evolution. Despite the palpable visual and material change of the cards, the technology in them remained the same until the early 1960s. Back then the IBM engineer – Forrest Parry, was working on a project. He wanted to combine a magnetized tape with a plastic identity card but didn’t know how to do it. The story tells he shared his struggle with his wife, who suggested to iron the plastic body of the card and the stripe.
Since this simple but revolutionary solution, Parry became a pioneer in magnetic stripe technology and laid the foundations of the technological revolution in cards. In 1971 Forrest’s invention became an international standard for debit and credit cards.
EMV chip – better, faster, safer
Time passed and all big financial institutions started noticing a problem with magnetic stripes. It appeared that this technology is not secure and is easy to clone. Then Europay, Mastercard, and Visa (EMV) came with a solution. They suggested integrating an EMV chip into every debit and credit card. This chip encrypts the card’s data dynamically and makes it hard to copy. Further, it can store more information than a magnetic stripe. Upon introducing this invention, card plastics went one step further on the way to achieving the perfect balance between convenience, security and functionality.
Near Field Communication (NFC) – tap & pay
In order to give us more convenient ways of usage, humanity has continued to develop the payment card. If we look it from side to side, we can notice that we already discussed everything visible – the plastic body, the embossed names and numbers, the magnetic stripe and the EMV chip. However, there is still one technology that almost every modern card possesses – NFC feature.
Near Field Communication (NFC) is the technology that managed to bring substantial additional value to the already mass adopted payment instruments. The first contactless cards were used in Hong Kong in 1996. Ever since this technology has been integrated into debit and credit cards for faster and easier payments.
The future of payment cards – iCard Metal
We are in 2020 and almost every gadget is getting a “smart upgrade” to make our life better and easier. We went through the payment cards’ evolution up to this point, where they are at their prime. Or are they?
In December 2020 we, iCard, released our most futuristic debit card on the market so far – the iCard Metal. The dogma that metal cards are only for the high society doesn’t appear in our understandings. We want to make our clients feel important. Because they are important.
Our iCard Metal debit card gives the premium feeling every person would like to experience. The card’s body itself is pure art. It combines all the best qualities and technologies. It is made out of real metal as the first credit cards that arrived only for selected customer in early 1910. The card details are laser engraved on its back for a better, simpler and clean front appearance. Not to mention all the magnificent privileges it gives like up to 1% cashback, free travel insurance, free SEPA transfers and many more All of these coming together with a free digital wallet.”
Imagine yourself travelling from country to country, having with yourself nothing else but your phone, a backpack and your iCard Metal. Why only those items? Because you won’t need anything else.
History shows how for centuries a simple object like the debit/credit card has evolved many times. From an old piece of paper to metal cards like the Card Metal, the debit card’s physical appearance is about to do disappear. From now on, one of the possible steps for development will be the transfer into the digital world. A step that iCard already made and integrated into its Digital Wallet.
You want to take your iCard Metal but don’t have the app?