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Credit cards have been around for much longer than you might think. The earliest known credit card was the “Charg-It” card which was first issued in 1946. Customers of the Flatbush National Bank in Brooklyn could use the card to make a purchase, and the merchant would deposit the sales slip at the bank. The bank would reimburse the merchant, and the bank would bill the customer.

Who are the largest credit card issuers in 2023?

1. Chase

JP Morgan Chase & Co has been around in some form or fashion since 1799. There have been several different mergers over the centuries. What started as The Manhattan Company has eventually become JPMorgan Chase or Chase for short. It should be no surprise that Chase is number one on this list as it’s the oldest company. 

Chase is the clear-cut winner of all three categories, and it’s not even close. In 2021, Chase had more than 149.3 million cardholders that made 11.26 billion purchases, for a total of $950.47 in sales. These numbers dominate this list and make Chase the undisputed king of credit cards. 

2. Capital One

Capital One is the plucky rookie of this group as it only came into existence in 1994. The founders didn’t waste any time and immediately started issuing credit cards to any willing customers. The company quickly made up for lost time and catapulted the charts for credit card users. 

Despite being less than 30 years old, Capital One had the second highest number of cardholders in 2021, with 106.9 million. These cardholders made 4.73 billion purchases (3rd on this list) for a total of $454.96 billion in sales (4th on this list). 

3. Citi

Citi’s origins go back to 1811, when it was known as the City Bank of New York. Nearly two centuries later, in 1998, the bank became Citigroup (Citi for short). Citi was one of the first issuers on this list as it entered the credit card game in the 1960s. It’s been able to hold on to a top three spot despite fierce competition over the decades.

Citi had the third most cardholders in 2021, with 78.7 million. Together, these cardholders made more than 4.73 billion purchases for a total of $482.6 billion in sales (3rd on this list). The much younger Capital One may have surpassed Citi, but it’s been able to hold off some other powerful financial institutions.

4. Discover

Discover isn’t as old as some other companies on this list, but it has arguably the most interesting backstory. The first credit card network on this list was founded as a branch of Sears in 1985. Although Sears would officially go out of business in 2018, Discover has lived on and is now a top-four credit card issuer and network. 

Discover had the fourth most cardholders in 2021, with 61 million. Interestingly, despite having the fourth most cardholders, Discover ranked sixth in both purchases (3.26 billion) and the total amount spent ($182.13 billion). Still, it’s pretty impressive that Discover has made it so far, given its unique origin, especially considering that some of these companies predate it by nearly 200 years.  

5. Bank of America

Interestingly, Bank of America was initially known as the Bank of Italy when it was founded in 1904. As mentioned earlier, Bank of America was the very first issuer of a credit card that was universally accepted. Although BoA might have started in San Francisco, it quickly spread, largely thanks to the first credit card. 

Bank of America ranks fifth on this list because it finished in fifth place in all the qualifying categories. It was fifth in cardholders with 55.4 million, fifth in transactions with 4.55 billion, and fifth in total sales with $413.97 billion. These numbers are relatively impressive for a company that’s been in the credit card game longer than anyone else.

6. American Express

American Express is the third oldest company on this list, as it’s been around since 1850. While it wouldn’t get involved with credit cards until the 1980s, AmEx quickly became one of the most popular options of the big four credit networks. American Express is the second credit card network on this list that also issues credit cards. 

The statistics surrounding American Express are pretty bizarre. On the one hand, it only had 48.4 million cardholders in 2021, which is the least for any credit card issue on this list. Despite having the least amount of cardholders, American Express cards were used to make 5.83 billion transactions and account for $867.59 billion in sales. Both of these numbers are the second highest totals on this list.

Why should I have a credit card?

The competition between the best credit card companies can be very intense. Each company is trying to persuade new customers to sign up for their card instead of their rivals. As a result, they shower prospective customers with a vast array of benefits, perks, and rewards. Choosing a credit card that suits you the best can be very lucrative.

It’s important to note that not all credit cards are the same. There is a clear distinction between business credit cards and personal credit cards. While they function similarly, the exact qualifications and rewards differ significantly. If you don’t already have them, you should look into getting a business credit card and a personal credit card. These are the reasons why:


Using a credit card is one of the most convenient ways to make a purchase. At best, you slide it or insert it into a card reading machine. At worst, you have to enter the numbers manually. It’s superior to carrying around a pocketful of cash, calculating whether you have enough to afford something, and moving around the leftover change. The tiny, plastic rectangle in your pocket is all you have to provide to avoid all of these inconveniences.

Rewards programs

The rewards programs offered by credit card companies can be vibrant. The majority of reward programs include some version of a cash-back program. For qualifying purchases, you’ll get a percentage of the cost returned. The credit card company is paying you to spend money you would have been spending anyway. These rewards are usually only a few percentage points, but they can add up to a lot of money over time.

Fraud protection

If your wallet or purse were stolen, everything inside of it would be gone. The cash would disappear into the world and never be seen again. The credit cards would also vanish, but you wouldn’t lose any money as you did with the cash. Credit card companies set up strict protection for their customers and don’t hold them accountable for fraudulent purchases. If the thieves were to go on a spending spree with your stolen card, you would sort it out with the card issuer and have the money reimbursed. There’s no such program for lost or stolen cash.

Track spending

In the old days, people would have to balance their checkbooks and try to keep a running total of their cash. Accidentally omitting one entry could result in your bank statement being much lower than you thought. By using a credit card, you’ll be given a monthly bill that will help you track how much you’re spending and where it’s going. You could easily create a budget and reign in your spending by reviewing your credit card statement.

Build credit

Using a credit card responsibly is one of the most effective ways to build your credit score over time. Loan lenders will run credit reports to determine whether you’re trustworthy and will repay your debts. A solid history of owning a credit card and making your payments on time is an excellent way to prove it. Having no credit history might be better than having bad credit, but neither other of them will help you to secure a loan.

While credit cards do have advantages over debit cards, there are some reasons to be cautious when choosing a credit card, including:

  • Annual fees
  • Interest rates
  • Credit limits
  • Foreign transaction fees
  • Balance transfer fees
  • Interchange fees
  • High card payments

The evolution of credit cards

The “Charg-It” card was a conceptual experiment and didn’t immediately catch on. There were only a few stores within a two-square-block radius that participated, so it wasn’t exactly a game changer. It wasn’t until 12 years later that the first revolving credit card with universal merchant acceptance appeared. In 1958, the BankAmeriCard was issued by Bank of America in California. The card quickly caught on, spread like wildfire, and still exists today.

Credit cards have come a long way since their humble origins. You can use a credit card in every country around the world these days — quite a dramatic improvement from the two-square-block radius in Brooklyn nearly 80 years ago. Credit cards are so standard in the modern era that a new record was recently set in the fourth quarter of 2021. More than 196 million credit card users had at least one credit card in their name. The number is only expected to increase. 

Credit cards are so common that most people have several of them. There are a lot of benefits that come from using different credit cards for other purposes. As a business owner, you should take full advantage of the perks of using a new credit card. It’s a good idea to have a few in your personal life and a few in your professional life.

Get a credit card today so you can reap the benefits

Credit cards have become essential to society and aren’t going away anytime soon. There are so many benefits that come with using a credit card and very few downsides. Using a credit card is unbeatable; you’re protected from fraud, the rewards programs are very generous, it’s easier to track your spending, and you’ll be building credit. Each of these features is highly valuable on its own. The fact that they are combined into one card and offered for free is almost unbelievable.

While you’re looking into getting a credit card, be sure to look into getting one for your business too. Chances are you spend a lot of money on your business. Imagine the rewards you could rack up by getting 2% cash back on your purchases. That’s not even counting the increased organizing, credit score boost, and protections you’ll receive. As long as you’re responsible for your spending, the sky’s the limit for credit card benefits.

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Information provided on Entrepreneur Guide is for educational purposes only. Your financial situation is unique and the products and services we review may not be right for your circumstances. We do not offer financial advice, advisory or brokerage services, we do not recommend or advise individuals to buy or sell particular stocks or securities. Performance information may have changed since the time of publication. Past performance is not indicative of future results

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