Hawai‘i’s first credit cards were those issued by individual businesses, beginning with the cards offered by oil companies during the 1920s. But the big boom occurred after World War II when, as one account noted, “credit became an American institution.”
In 1958, the Credit Bureau of Hawaii estimated that three-fourths of all Honolulu business firms issued their own cards. On October 1, 1958, the American Express Company’s credit card plan, serving a large number of participating merchants, went into effect in the Islands. This was followed in January 1959 by the Diners Club credit system, initially with only nineteen participating firms and two thousand card holders but seven months later serving more than two hundred restaurants and other businesses and more than ten thousand card holders in Hawai‘i.
The earliest local comprehensive credit card plans were the Bank of Hawai‘i’s Charge Account Plan and the Kamaaina Charge Club, both of which began operations early in 1959. Credit cards usage expanded rapidly during the following decades. Today it is almost universal.
By Robert C. Schmitt