Secret History of the Credit Card

Just about everyone has a credit card these days. It is a highly convenient personal financial tool, as well as a commonly used business instrument. But for the less informed and the careless it can act simply as a well hidden trap placed by the banks. For someone who uses their credit card smartly it can be beneficial; exploiting reward points, interest free periods, etc.

But for someone who is not ready for it, the allure of the instantly available line of credit, and the non-urgent feeling of credit card debt, financial trouble can easily creep up. Missed payment fees, penalty interest rates, and generally high interest rates can soon send people into financial difficulty. But all that aside, how did the credit card come about in the US? What was its origins and why is the industry structured the way it is today? This documentary addresses that and offers quite an interesting insight into personal finance.

The average American family today carries 10 credit cards. Credit card debt and personal bankruptcies are now at an all time high. With no legal limit on the amount of interest or fees that can be charged, credit cards have become the most profitable sector of the American banking industry: more than $30 billion in profits last year alone. FRONTLINE examines how the credit card industry became so pervasive, so lucrative, and so powerful.

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