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Diners Club Celebrates 65 Years in an Industry it Helped to Launch

Sixty-five years ago today, Diners Club International was born, creating a revolution. Since then, the way we buy and sell goods and services has never been the same. The launch of Diners Club – and its role in establishing the concept of “credit” – was so profound that Bloomberg Business recently ranked it 19th on its “85 Most Disruptive Ideas in 85 Years” list.

Up until February 1950, purchasing a meal in a restaurant meant paying in cash. That all changed in 1949, when founder Frank X. McNamara realized he had left his wallet at home after a meal in New York City and had to wait for his wife to bring it to him in order to pay his bill. He vowed that he would never face this type of embarrassment again, so one year later, he and his lawyer-turned-partner, Ralph Schneider, introduced the Diners Club card to 200 of their friends and acquaintances for use in 14 New York restaurants. By the end of the year, 20,000 people were carrying Diners Club cards and by the end of the decade, card membership reached one million with acceptance in more than 20,000 locations.

As Robert McNamara, son of the founder, puts it in this video about the Diners Club legacy, his father “created an industry”:

Diners Club’s history is rich in “firsts” – among them:

  • First internationally-accepted charge card (1953)
  • First company devoted exclusively to charge cards to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange (1959)
  • First charge card in Russia (1969) and China (1980)
  •  The industry’s first corporate card program (1975) and, eventually, the first multinational corporate card program (1990)
  • The industry’s first rewards program, called Club Rewards (1984)

This legacy of enabling and enriching clubmembers’ journeys persists today. Diners Club acceptance has grown to more than 185 countries and territories around the globe. We offer our members access to more than 700 airport lounges worldwide as well as hundreds of unique travel and dining offers through our Privileges platform. Our partnership with The World’s 50 Best Restaurants organization aligns the Diners Club brand with the world’s top chefs and dining experiences.

We are continuing to evolve our Global Commercial Payments suite of solutions, grow our International Merchant Registration and chip card participation, and we are updating our mobile and digital offerings to provide a better, more seamless customer experience.

Happy 65th Anniversary to Diners Club – and here’s to many more “firsts” in the future! Interested in reading more historical facts about Diners Club? Check out our company timeline.