American Express, one of the world's largest banking houses, launched its credit card service in Britain 50 years ago today.
The service enabled its card holders to 'flash the plastic' at nearly 3,000 establishments at home and 83,000 abroad, settling their accounts in pounds sterling rather than dollars.
This move proved to be a decisive step towards the proliferation of credit cards in Britain, the idea of which had not yet been widely accepted by the public at large. Fifty years on, and the credit card has gone well and truly mainstream.
There are currently 56.4 million credit cards in the UK, with 61% of the UK adult population owning one or more. In 2012 credit card holders made on average 68 purchases with their card. This number looks set to increase as further technological advances continue to transform the industry.
"Credit cards changed the world by 'electronifiying' money, completely revolutionising the way we not only think about spending but how we actually do it", comments Carin Van Vuuren, CMO for Usablenet, the global leader in mobile and multichannel technology.
"The next big payments transformation in the retail industry is already underway - a virtual lease of life in the form of mobile wallets and proximity payments. The growth of payment solutions such as Wallets (Google, Mastercard), NFC (S-Beam) and potentially Apple Passbook provide yet further shortcuts for customers looking to speed through check-out as quickly as possible. With mobile, plastic will become plastic-less, as such."
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