The History of Card Payments

Our relationship with cash is ever changing, with the introduction of credit cards and card terminals it's never been easier for payment transactions. But where did it all begin? Read below of the history of card payments.

The first payment card, Diners Club, appeared in the United States

History of Card Payments
Diner's Card. Source: Wikipedia

Followed by American Express.

American Express and Diners Club were both charge cards, where you pay the full amount on credit at the end of each month but people called them credit cards. This was a way to allow payment settlements without the use of cash


Bank of America released the first bank card, called BankAmericard (renamed as Visa in 1976). This was the first case where a monthly balance is carried over to the following months for a fee.


American Express revolutionised this with the first plastic credit card.

The cardholder’s name, address and unique identification number were marked in embossed lettering on these cards. This enabled merchants to produce an imprint on carbon paper slips intended for the bank, merchant and customer as proof of purchase. The imprint was done on the first non-electronic card machine.

Non-electric card machine. Source: Wikipedia
Old Credit Card Receipt
Old Card Imprinting Receipt. Source: Wikipedia

The first payment card in the UK was the charge card American Express.


Barclays followed BankAmericard’s footsteps and issued the first all-purpose credit card in the UK.


It wasn’t until 1967 that the first automatic teller machine (ATM) was launched by Barclays in the UK

First ever ATM
The world's first cash machine 1967. Source: Wikipedia

A magnetic stripe was added to payment cards and the card payment system thus became electronic.

The magnetic stripe contained information needed to validate the payment: name of the cardholder, card number, authorisation code and expiry date of the card. The technology made it possible to conduct increasingly secure transactions, control the account balance of the customer, and accept or refuse a transaction on the spot.

Magnetic stripe for card payments
Magnetic Stripe. Source: Wikipedia

The first electronic transaction authorisation system was created in the United States, linking merchants to the Visa data centre in California.

National BankAmericard launched the first electronic authorisation, clearing and settlement system, which laid the foundation for all electronic card processing onward, but still required a 5-minute phone call per authorisation.


French inventor Roland Moreno patented the chip card.

The chip card is capable of storing a large amount of information and communicating in real time with the customer’s bank to validate or invalidate the authorisation of the transaction.

It also offers much greater security than the magnetic stripe card system, which could easily be cloned.

Chip and Pin card payments
Chip and Pin Prototype. Source: Wikipedia

The invention of swipe cards in 1970 did not actually change the way shops accepted cards until the first bulky, electronic card machine was launched by Visa in 1979

The introduction of the electronic card machine greatly reduced card processing times, compared to manual imprints and phone authorisations.


Jean-Jacques Poutrel and Michel Malhouitre established Ingenico in France and developed their first payment terminal in 1984. Ingenico, through a number of acquisitions, would dominate the European market for payment terminals for a number of years.

1981 - 1983

One of the first companies to produce dedicated payment terminals was Verifone. It started in 1981 in Hawaii as a small electronic company. In 1983 they introduced the ZON terminal series, which would become the standard for modern payment terminals.


The revolutionary microprocessor chip became widely used on bank cards


The original UK debit card was released


The implementation of the micro chip on all debit cards first became mandatory in France

2004 - 2006

In the UK, it wasn’t until 2004 that chip and PIN cards were introduced, and they were made mandatory on all British payment cards from February 2006.


In the UK, Barclaycard was the first to adopt NFC in their credit cards in 2007. Near-field communication (NFC) is a set of communication protocols that enables communication between two electronic devices over a distance of 4 cm.


By December 2014, there were 58 million contactless cards in circulation in the country and 147,000 NFC terminals in use.


Chip and PIN cards were introduced In the United States and became mandatory on all payment cards.


Contactless and mobile payments are continuously rising in usage. For the first time ever in the UK, it overtook cash payments in 2018.


Visa and Mastercard require all card terminals to accept contactless

2022 and beyond

In addition to the old PIN or signature system, it is now possible to use biometric data to authenticate the customer at the point of sale. Ingenico’s Move 2500B, is capable of recognising fingerprints. With this system, the user places the index finger on a fingerprint reader integrated on the payment terminal. Biometrics and implants may be the way payments evolve, though plastic card is still king and the use of smartphones, smart watches and online payments are still on the increase.

If you our your business requires card machines, get in touch. we can help you with the latest technology and advise you on the most suitable card terminal that works efficiently at less cost to your business. 

We’ve come a long way with payment technology. Before the advancement of payment systems, cashiers were still using a pen and a book keeping pad to keep track of transactions within the businesses. If you want to read the history of cash registers, read our article.

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