A brief history of credit cards

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Consumer credit has always been a part of American financial life. Early Americans depended on credit extended by the local general store to float them until harvest time, when the debt would be paid off. Industrialization introduced workers to leisure time and disposable income — and they happily signed up for installment plans and department store charge cards to buy new innovations, like the sewing machine and the electric iron, that catered to the desires of this new class of consumers....

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