Info/Intox: the short history of the bank card in 8 questions – 03/25/2024 at 4:31 p.m.


(Photo credits: Adobe Stock - The little history of the bank card)

(Photo credits: Adobe Stock – The little history of the bank card)

The means of payment are multiple and all have their specificities: purpose, speed, physical medium or dematerialized flow… The bank card already has a rich past but the digital world has opened up the field of possibilities. Here is some historical information that we let you appreciate according to your knowledge or your sixth sense! The correct answers are specified following the questions so that the history of the bank card is clear to you.

1) The bank card, an American invention?

Partially true. The first credit card saw the light of day in 1951 in the United States following a launch by the Diners Club company. This American initiative was then followed in 1967 by the 5 largest French banks for a gradual implementation in France. But it was Roland Moreno, who created the first chip payment card on May 25, 1974 after filing 43 patents and convincing French manufacturers to adopt this revolutionary innovation. Its applications were going to be valuable: withdrawing money from automatic teller machines (ATM) then paying merchants without resorting to cash.

2) The bank card is also called credit card or debit card?

Fake. There are two types of bank card. The debit card corresponds to the immediate debit payment method (subject to sufficient funds on the account), while the credit card concerns deferred debit payments, free or with interest, accumulated and debited generally at the end of the month. (1)

3) Did the credit card payment shoe really exist?

TRUE. Also called an iron, the shoe consisted of an energetic lateral movement by the merchant to print the imprint of the bank card on carbon paper. It constituted physical proof of payment for both parties, subject to signing the invoice. Having gradually become obsolete and dethroned by the arrival of electronic payment terminals (TPE), in particular that of the strip card system, this device has now disappeared.

4) Is the chip bank card more aesthetic than the magnetic card?

Not really. The magnetic card queried the bank in real time: waiting times were therefore long, while the smart card keeps key information in memory, which exempts it from being in permanent contact with the bank. In addition to its performance, the smart card is also more secure, hence its widespread use in France in 1988.

5) The first contactless payment with a card on a TPE dates back to 2004?

Fake. The first experiments date from 2005 (in Caen then in Nice) and lasted until 2011. The pivotal year which formalized the launch of contactless in France was 2012.

6) The bank card belongs to the bank: true or false?

TRUE. Even if it is given to the holder who keeps it on a daily basis, the bank card remains the property of the bank. Thus, it can withdraw it from its user in the event of inappropriate use or refuse to issue another one during the renewal period.

7) In 2021 in France, the bank card represented 50% of the volume of cashless payment methods?

Fake. In 2021, the share of cashless payment methods (excluding cash) made by bank card rose to 56.9%. This represented 16.16 billion operations (2). The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly accelerated its growth.

8) The bank card of tomorrow will be increasingly virtual?

Partially true. After the rise of contactless payment, dematerialized payment on smartphones (m-payment or mobile payment), instant transfers by SMS, the classic physical medium of the bank card tends to disappear.

Tomorrow, NFC contactless technology could be incorporated into a ring, glasses arms, clothing, etc. Don't panic, for those who want it and are reassured, the card will remain in its current format for some time.

You now know more about the origin, characteristics and future of the bank card. Find our Info/Intox series on the history and facets of payment methods, with other banking themes to come…


(1) https://particuliers.banque-france.fr/moyens-de-paiement/carte-bancaire
(2) https://www.banque-france.fr/sites/default/files/medias/documents/rapport_osmp_2021.pdf

Ségolène Marquier
Ségolène Marquier

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