Q: Is it true that the inventor of credit cards died penniless?
Sadly, it's true. Although a number of individual businesses offered credit cards as early as the 1920s, a businessman named Frank McNamara (along with partner Ralph Schneider) is credited with starting their widespread use when he came up with the idea of the Diners Club card. He convinced 27 New York restaurants to honor his new card, launched in 1950. Within a year, the card gained 42,000 members each paying a fee for an annual membership. McNamara sold his interest in Diners Club two years later for $200,000 and went into real estate hoping to become a millionaire. By 1957, when he died of a heart attack at age 40, he had lost his entire fortune.
Whether busting out the plastic at a department store for an impulse purchase or filing a company expense report, Frank McNamara might be considered a hero for the convenience he touted or an anti-hero for all who've spent a little more than we could pay.