NEW YORK (AP) - Want to hunt polar bear in Alaska, entertain your mother-in-law at a Paris restaurant, rent a house-boat for a Mississippi cruise, hire a big-name orchestra for your daughter's wedding reception—and charge it?
All you need is a credit card.
These are some of the more bizarre ways you can use a credit card but their purchasing power covers the whole gamut of goods and services.
It's estimated that Americans are carrying 200 million credit cards and using them to spend around $50 billion a year.
As a result of the proliferation of credit cards, there has been widespread speculation about the possibilities of a checkless, cashless society in the future.
Some bankers envision nationwide system In which a single identification card would be used in place of all checks and almost all cash.
But American Express, a big name in the credit card industry, says, "The single-card system couldn't be further from reality today. The most striking feature of our present system of transferring money is the multiplicity of credit cards."
Credit cards as we know them today were pioneered in 1950 by Diners' Club, which was created with 200 members, an initial investment of $18,000 and a handful ot restaurants In the New York City area. Within a year it had grown to 10,000 members who could charge at more than 1,000 establishments.
Credit cards now fall into three categories:
—Travel and entertainment. Operators in this field are American Express, Diners' Club and Carte Blanche. These cards are held primarily by business and professional men.
—Private label. Oil companies, airlines, hotels, car rental companies and department stores offer these cards primarily to promote their services or products.
—Revolving credit cards. These cards, largely regional or local in nature, are issued mainly by banks and financial organizations and are meant primarily for use by housewives for shopping.
The credit card companies derive their revenue from discounts from establishments which accept the cards in lieu of cash and from membership fees. Some credit card practices have come in for criticism recently, mainly because of the mailing of unsolicited cards by banks and some others in the revolving credit field.
Credit Card Rings (1964)
Online Shopping (1967)
Prelude to a Great Depression (The Chronicle Telegram, 1929)