During the same time period as the advent of high technology electronics, another major change has taken place in the world of economics that will also help to usher in a cashless society and the Mark of the Beast. This rather quiet change has involved the creation of a new form of currency—cards or plastic money—as a substitute for traditional paper money and coins, and it has already totally altered the way the world does business. Anthony Sampson said in his book, The Money Lenders,
“…it had begun modestly in February 1950, when the manager of a small loan company, Frank McNamara, established the Diners Club, which provided select members with credit at twenty-two restaurants in New York” (p. 244).
McNamara gave cards to his club members to identify their association with his payment system. All that the members of the Diner’s Club had to do was present their cards at the participating restaurants when they dined. Their meals were then paid for on credit backed by McNamara’s loan company. The owners of the restaurants would then bill the Diner’s Club for the cost of the meal and McNamara’s company would promptly pay them. Later, the members would receive a bill in the mail from the Diner’s Club, which would amount to the cost of the meal plus a small commission for the extension of credit.
Although this scenario may sound all too familiar to us who live in the Twenty-First Century, back in the early days of the Diner’s Club card it was a radical innovation. For the first time, people could pay for something without cash or checks. They also had the power to obtain instant credit for their purchases through point of sale loans financed by the Diner’s Club. Even if the customers didn’t have any cash in their pockets, they could still buy a meal just by presenting the card. For this reason, the new cards became known as credit cards or plastic money, and it wasn’t long before the concept multiplied like wildfire.
The rush for instant credit really took off in 1958 with the introduction of the American Express card. This was similar to the Diner’s Club card, but it was also far more extensive than the original concept Frank McNamara had in mind. The new twist was that American Express would extend the payment card concept to retail stores and service centers all across the country. Organizations wanting to participate in the latest way-to-pay rushed to take advantage of the consumer potential. Soon thereafter, Mastercharge Card (now MasterCard) and Bank Americard (now Visa) followed with their own credit cards and the revolution quickly expanded globally.
Europe also jumped onto the bandwagon with the introduction of the Eurocard in 1978, and many other countries and regions subsequently developed their own cards. In 1992, Eurocard became a global company through the formation of Europay International, located in Belgium. This location also was the regional office of MasterCard International, and Eurocard and MasterCard began a new joint venture called Maestro International. In 2002, Europay International and MasterCard merged and formed MasterCard Worldwide. The Eurocard is still a major European payment card, which is accepted all over the world for business and personal use.
Clearly, the trend is toward the integration of payment cards into a global system that will operate worldwide. A person having any one of the major cards can now use them to purchase goods and services in virtually any country of the world, even in the poorest of nations. The convenience of handing over a card as opposed to carrying cash has appealed to millions of consumers, especially when large purchases are involved. Today, these global cards along with a host of other regional cards have become truly universal in scope. Billions of dollars now exchange hands every day as a result of buying and selling with the many different forms of plastic money.
Banks and financial institutions who sponsored the cards also strongly advocated them, because they produced huge influxes of new capital in the form of interest money and user fees. At first, lending laws governing conventional loans also could be sidestepped with this type of credit scheme. Unfortunately, the added bonanza for the lending institutions resulted in interest rates for consumers far exceeding those of normal loans. Still the use of credit cards continued to climb. Today, up to 80% of adults in the U.S. have at least one card, and they spend over $1 trillion each year using them.
Over the last twenty years, however, a new trend is beginning to transform the concept of the credit card into much more than Frank McNamara and the original card companies ever thought possible. In a reflection of this change, Mastercharge Card changed its name to simply, Mastercard, and Bank Americard switched to the more international sounding, Visa. Superficially, these changes might not seem significant, but when we see what is really at work behind the scenes, the road to the Mark of the Beast will be seen to loom ever closer.
With cards becoming more popular than ever, there is actually a movement to severely limit the use of them to obtain quick credit. The total worldwide credit card debt has soared over $4 trillion, and U.S. consumers represent about 40% of that total. In addition, with the global economic recession causing high unemployment or under-employment, the debt crisis has been transformed into a very real liability for banks and credit card companies as greater numbers of customers default on their payments. Economywatch.com says that up to 25% of Americans have a debt problem due to overspending on credit cards. To overcome this problem, the card companies saw an opportunity to extend the card concept to become more of a replacement for cash or checks instead of just offering revolving credit. American Express Card has always been a “pay as you go” card where each bill must be paid in full within thirty days of receipt. Most other cards also have the option of paying immediately and thus avoiding any finance charges. However, the overall trend in the industry is now leaning toward specialized cards that will be used exclusively as direct substitutes for cash. These second generation debit cards allow purchases to be made just like those of the original credit cards, but do not even have a credit or time payment option available.
Debit cards, according to their advocates, are the modern-day answer to the checkbook. Instead of writing out a check and having your bank make the resulting payment, you simply hand over your card. However, unlike the normal credit card where using one is treated as a way to pay for something that you may not have the money to buy at the time, the debit card requires an immediate full cash payment backed up by a bank account having enough funds to cover the purchase. At first, this cash requirement often came in the form of a one month’s delay, where you wouldn’t be invoiced until the following billing period. Now, however, the debit card is being used in an electronic system of much more elaborate design.
The movement away from cash or the physical exchange of money to the use of credit cards and debit cards using electronic currency requires an elaborate underlying network to facilitate the transfer of information and funds. The operation of this system still is done by the transfer of currency credits, such as dollars or other currencies, but the movement to electronic buying and selling is conditioning us to accept the elimination of cash. Some countries have recently eliminated cash for some transactions, such as public transport systems or payment of taxes. This is being done using the next generation card, called a smart card, which will be discussed in another section. However, smart card transactions extend the electronic network to include even the card itself, which contains all of your personal financial information.
This vast computer network has been constructed over the same time period as the transition from cash and checks to plastic money. In the next section, the development of these electronic networks will be discussed as well as how the Empire of the Beast is preparing for the soon elimination of all cash from society. Those that have developed and manage this network will eventually be able to control the lives of every person on Earth through the absolute control of money!
Next: Electronic Funds Transfer