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"We [science fiction writers] always wanted to believe in "private sector" space -- hucksters make better characters than a government does."
- Larry Niven

Credit Card  
  A simple card that is used in place of money  

This is probably the first mention of the idea of a credit card.

Money has been abolished in this vision of the twentyfirst century; clerks make use of physical punch cards to indicate the value of purchases.

A credit corresponding to his share of the annual product of the nation is given to every citizen on the public books at the beginning of each year, and a credit card issued him with which he procures at the public storehouses, found in every community, whatever he desires whenever he desires it. This arrangement, you will see, totally obviates the necessity for business transactions of any sort between individuals and consumers. Perhaps you would like to see what our credit cards are like.

"You observe," he pursued as I was curiously examining the piece of pasteboard he gave me, "that this card is issued for a certain number of dollars. We have kept the old word, but not the substance. The term, as we use it, answers to no real thing, but merely serves as an algebraical symbol for comparing the values of products with one another. For this purpose they are all priced in dollars and cents, just as in your day. The value of what I procure on this card is checked off by the clerk, who pricks out of these tiers of squares the price of what I order."

Technovelgy from Looking Backward, by Edward Bellamy.
Published by Not known in 1888
Additional resources -

This is probably more accurately called a "debit card," since each person is given a stated amount of credit on each card.

It's also interesting to note that the idea of punched cards had been around for more than 150 years before Bellamy wrote his story; they were used to control textile looms in France. In fact, punched cards were used for informatics as early as 1832. I'm guessing that Bellamy's audience might have seen this as a modern technological notion.

Thanks to Carl Anderson for suggesting this item; read more of the book online at Looking Backward.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Looking Backward
  More Ideas and Technology by Edward Bellamy
  Tech news articles related to Looking Backward
  Tech news articles related to works by Edward Bellamy

Credit Card-related news articles:
  - Ultimate Credit Card Of The Future
  - Credit Card Embedded Authentication Device Looks Retro, Is Advanced
  - Will Japan Abolish Cash?

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