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Interesting Credit Card Facts That You Didn’t Know (Yet)

Last updated 06/17/2024 by

Andrew Latham
Summary:
Discover ten fascinating facts about credit cards that most people don’t know. From the history and mechanics to surprising statistics and legal protections, this article provides an in-depth look at the ubiquitous plastic cards that are an essential part of modern financial life.
Credit cards are an integral part of our daily transactions, yet many of us are unaware of their intriguing history and lesser-known features. From their origins to the laws that protect consumers, here are ten fascinating facts about credit cards that you probably didn’t know.

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Your credit card doesn’t really have an expiration date

Although your credit card displays an expiration date, it doesn’t mean the card stops working after that date. The expiration date primarily serves two purposes: to give the issuer a chance to send you a new card and to provide an additional layer of security for online and phone transactions.

There are over 2 billion credit cards in circulation worldwide

As of 2022, there are more than 2 billion credit cards in circulation from the major companies: Visa, Mastercard, and American Express. If placed side by side, these cards could span over 100,000 miles, enough to circle the earth more than four times.

The largest private antitrust settlement in history involved credit cards

In December 2013, a U.S. District Judge approved a $5.7 billion settlement over Mastercard and Visa swipe fees. Initially set at $7.2 billion, the amount was reduced when thousands of merchants opted out of the deal.

Credit card companies spend around $100 to acquire each new customer

According to recent reports, credit card companies spend an average of $100 on marketing and administrative costs for each new customer. However, each customer brings in an average annual return of $150.

Your maximum liability for unauthorized credit card use is $50

Under the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA), your liability for unauthorized credit card use is limited to $50. If you report your card stolen before any fraudulent charges occur, you aren’t liable for any amount.

The first credit card could only be used in New York restaurants

The Diners Club Card, founded in 1950, was the first multi-use credit card, but it was initially only accepted at 28 New York restaurants. Despite its limited use, it quickly became a status symbol among New York’s business elite.

The average American household credit card debt is $17,000

In 2022, the average credit card debt for American households was $17,000. With an average interest rate of 16%, it can take over 30 years to pay off if only minimum payments are made, resulting in a total cost of $45,000.

Women are more likely to pay late fees and carry a balance

A 2022 report by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation found that women are more likely than men to incur late fees, carry a balance, and make only the minimum payment on their credit cards.

Standard credit card interest rates are illegal in most states

State usury laws limit the maximum interest rates financial institutions can charge. However, a 1978 Supreme Court ruling allows national banks to bypass these limits by operating from states with more lenient laws.

Credit card companies place their headquarters in states with lax usury laws

Following the Supreme Court ruling, many credit card companies moved their headquarters to states with lax usury laws like South Dakota and Delaware, where there are no caps on interest rates.

Key takeaways

  • Credit card expiration dates are more for security and card replacement rather than the card’s actual usability.
  • There are over 2 billion credit cards in circulation globally, enough to circle the earth four times.
  • The largest private antitrust settlement involved Mastercard and Visa swipe fees.
  • Credit card companies spend about $100 to acquire each new customer, who typically generates $150 annually.
  • Under the FCBA, your liability for unauthorized credit card use is capped at $50.
  • The first multi-use credit card, the Diners Club Card, was initially only accepted at 28 New York restaurants.
  • Average American household credit card debt stands at $17,000.
  • Women are more likely to incur late fees and carry a balance on their credit cards.
  • Standard credit card interest rates are illegal in most states due to usury laws, but national banks can bypass these limits.
  • Many credit card companies are headquartered in states with lax usury laws to avoid interest rate caps.

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Andrew Latham

Andrew is the Content Director for SuperMoney, a Certified Financial Planner®, and a Certified Personal Finance Counselor. He loves to geek out on financial data and translate it into actionable insights everyone can understand. His work is often cited by major publications and institutions, such as Forbes, U.S. News, Fox Business, SFGate, Realtor, Deloitte, and Business Insider.

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