How the Credit Card Captured America
The proliferation of platinum American Express cards in the 1980s spawned rumors of an ultimate, highly exclusive, never publicized “Black Card”. Carried by billionaires, it reportedly allowed holders to demand private shopping sprees at the world’s most exclusive shops and to summon helicopters in the middle of the Sahara.
20世纪80年代，美国运通公司的白金信用卡迅速增多，一时引得谣言四起，说还有一种终极的、发 卡限制极为严格的、从未公开宣传过的“黑卡”。据说，持此卡的亿万富翁凭卡可以要求单独在世界上 最昂贵的商店里肆意挥霍，尽兴狂购；能在撒哈拉大沙漢中心让直升机招之即来,挥之即去。
American Express vehemently denies the existence of such a credit card. But the persistence of the myth suggests the social importance of credit cards have for so many Americans. As one business writer puts it, “To have one’s credit cards cancelled now is akin to being excommunicated by the medieval church.，’
美国运通公司极力否认存在这样一种信用卡。然而这一神话却仍旧盛传不衰，说明了对许多美国 人来说,信用卡所具有的社会重要性。正如一位商业界的作家所说：“当今某人的信用卡被吊销，其性 质就宛如中世纪被教会革出教门一样。”
America’s love affair with the credit card began in 1949，when businessman Frank X. McNamara finished a meal in a New York restaurant and then discovered he had no cash. In those days, gasoline and store charge cards were common, but cash was standard for almost everything. An embarrassed McNamara called his wife, who rushed over to bail him out. His predicament gave him the idea for Diners Club.
美国人迷上信用卡始于1949年。那一年，商人糸兰克.麦克纳马拉在纽约的一家餐馆用餐完毕， 发现身上没带现金。当时汽油和商店赊账卡已经很普遍，但现金仍旧是支付几乎所有东西的标准。麦 克纳马拉很尴尬，给妻子打了个电话，妻子急忙赶来给他解了围。这次身陷窘境使他萌生了创办大莱俱 乐部的念头。
Within a year some 200 people carried the world’s first multifunctional credit card. For an annual fee of $ 5，these card holders could charge meals at 27 restaurants in and around New York City. By the end of 1951 more than a million dollars had been charged on the growing number of cards, and the company was soon turning a profit.
一年之内，大约有200个人率先用上了世界上第一种多功能信用卡。每年交纳5美元会费，持卡者 便可以在纽约市内和郊区的27家饭店里赊账就餐。到1951年底，随着持卡人数的不断增长，以该卡收 取的年费的金额已经超过100万美元，大莱公司很快扭亏为盈。
Ready to try something new, McNamara sold out all his stock of Diners Club to his partners, Ralph Schneider and Alfred Bloomingdale, for about S 200, 000 in 1953. People didn’t believe, Schneider discovered, that just by applying, they would get a credit card. “They thought there had to be a catch, ”he said.
又想搞新花样的麦克纳马拉,在1953年以约20万美元的价格，把他在大莱公司的股票全部卖给了 合伙人拉尔夫.舒纳德和阿尔弗雷德?布鲁明代尔。舒纳德发现,人们不相信仅仅申请一下就能得到 一张信用卡。他说他们认为其中必有圈套。”
There was a catch, but it snared the merchants, not the consumer. In a system card issuers use to this day, Diners Club charged retailers a “discount” of more than five percent on each sale. Despite the dent in their profits, merchants signed up, enticed by the argument that people with cards spend more than those without.
是有圈套，但套的是零售商而不是顾客。按照发卡者至今仍旧采用的一套方法，大莱公司要求零售 商就每一笔销售额付给5%以上的“折扣”。虽然利润减少，但零售商还是签约同意接受用信用卡付款， 因为他们受到这样一种想法的诱惑：有卡者比无卡者花得多。
The problem was to persuade enough people to carry the cards. Diners Club turned to promotions. It gave a-way a round-the-world trip on a popular television show. The winners charged their expenses and made it**from New York to New York without a dime in their pockets”.
问题是要说服足够多的人使用信用卡。于是大莱公司展开了促销宣传。该公司在一个颇受欢迎的 电视节目上举行了免费环球旅行大奖赛。获胜者用信用卡支付一切费用，完成一次“从纽约到纽约的 环球旅行。口袋里不带一分钱”。
By 1955 the convenience of charging was catching on in a big way.
As the cards proliferated, so did advertising encouraging consumers to charge up a luxurious life. Carte Blanche promised a 19-year-old, $ 73-a-week clerk named Joseph Miraglia that its card would open up a new and magical world. He used it for a $ 10,000 spending binge visiting Montreal, Las Vegas, Miami Beach and Havana, and staying only in the best hotels. “For a month I was a big shot,” Miraglia stated after he was finally arrested.
随着信用卡的增多，鼓励人们用信用卡赊账过奢侈生活的广告宣传也搞得五花八门。卡特?布兰 奇公司对一位19岁、周薪仅73美元的名叫约瑟夫?米拉格里亚的职员许诺说，该公司的信用卡将为他 打开一个崭新的神奇世界。米拉格里亚用该卡玩了个痛快，一次挥霍掉一万美金——游览了加拿大名 城蒙特利尔，美国赌城拉斯维加斯,旅游胜地迈阿密海滩和古巴首都哈瓦那，并且专门下榻于最豪华的 旅馆。当最终被捕之后，米拉格里亚说我当了一个月的大人物。”
But bankers, sensing among the less affluent people desire to spend, began issuing cards of their own.
The first to turn a profit was Bank of America’s Bank Americard. Bankers from all over the country descended on its California headquarter to learn the secret of its success—so many that Bank Americard, today known as Visa, began forming alliances with banks outside the state in 1966.
The Bank Americard network soon faced a competitor when Wells Fargo Bank joined with 77 others to create what became Master Charge. After scooping up 1.3million more Everything Card” holders from what was then First National City Bank, Master Charge - today’s Master Card-became for a while the biggest bank card in the country.
美国银行联营网络很快就遇到了竞争对手：威尔士伐戈银行联合了 77家其他银行创办了后来称做万用支付卡的信用卡。并从当时的花旗银行一下挖走了 130多万个“万事卡”持卡人之后，万用支付 卡——现叫万用卡，曾一度成为全国发行量最大的银行信用卡。
Not every bank joined the stampede. Some Chicago banks decided to go it alone, but they didn’t take long to hit trouble. Just before Christmas in 1966, five million unsolicited credit cards were mailed in Chicago.
Five million holiday credit card shoppers would have created a bonanza for the banks，but in the rush to market, the banks had been less than cautious in assembling their lists. Some families received 15 cards. Dead people and babies got cards. A dachshund named Alice Griffin was sent one that promised she would be welcomed as a “preferred customer”at Chicago’s finest restaurants. Hundreds of Chicagoans discovered they could use or sell a card they “found”，and by law，the person whose name appeared on it was liable for the charges -even if he or she had never requested or received the card.
在圣诞节期间，500万人用信用卡购物，必定会为银行创造出滚滚财源。然而，这几家银行在冲向 市场之际，收集发卡人名单时却太欠谨慎。有些家庭收到15张信用卡，死人和婴儿也收到了信用卡。 一只叫艾丽思.格里芬的小猎狗收到一张信用卡，允诺她将成为芝加哥最好的餐馆的责宾。芝加哥人 发现,他们可以使用或卖掉“拣到”的信用卡。而根据法律，凡名字出现在卡上的人对此卡支付的款项 应负法律责任——即使他从未申请或收到过信用卡。
The disaster sparked a movement to regulate the industry. Public Law 91-508, signed by President Nixon in October 1970，prohibited issuers from sending cards to people who hadn’t requested them and all but eliminated card holder liability for charges on a card reported lost or stolen. Later, the Fair Credit Billing Act set standard procedures for resolving billing disputes.
这场灾难激起了一场要求整顿该行业的运动。1970年10月由尼克松总统签署的91 一508号公法 禁止发卡人向未申请信用卡的人寄卡，并且几乎完全免除了持卡人对已经声明丢失或被盗的信用卡支付的款项应负的法律责任。后来信用卡公平账单法确立了解决账单糾纷的标准诉讼程序。
When the prime rate hit 20 percent in 1981, the banks found that consumers didn’t mind paying rates of 18 to 22 percent on their credit card balances.
High interest rates helped attract new players into the credit card arena, including Sears’ Discover Card, the first major competitor to Master Card and Visa. Airlines, car and insurance companies, even long-distance phone companies allied themselves with banks to offer credit cards. Experts estimate there are from 15,000 to 19,000 different cards available in this country.
高利息利率推波助澜吸引了许多新选手登上了信用卡这个竞技场，其中就有万用卡和维萨卡的第 一个重要的竞争对手——希尔斯公司的发现卡。航空、汽车和保险公司，甚至长途电话公司都竞相与银 行联合发行信用卡。专家们估计，在美国大约有1.5万到1.9万种不同可利用的信用卡。
The continuing competition has forced bank credit card issuers to counter with imaginative marketing strategies. Gold and other premium cards caught on.
Of course, credit cards have not only replaced cash for many purposes, but also in effect have created cash by making it instantly available virtually everywhere. The credit card cash advance is becoming as ubiquitous as the automated teller machine.
So the revolution that began in 1949 with an embarrassed businessman who was out of cash now seems complete. What Alfred Bloomingdale, then president of Diners Club, predicted more than 30 years ago seems to have come true: an America where” there will be only two classes of people—those with credit cards and those who can’t get them. "
1949年，一个商人因没带现金而弄得尴尬狼狈，由此而触发的这场革命现在看来已圆满结束。当 时的大莱公司总裁阿尔弗雷德?布鲁明代尔30年前的预言现在看来已经成为现实：“美国将只有两个 阶级——有卡阶级和无卡阶级。”