Diners Club International
|Founder||Frank X. McNamara
|Headquarters||Riverwoods, Illinois, U.S.|
(President & CEO)
|Products||Charge and Credit Cards|
Diners Club International (DCI), founded as Diners Club, is a charge card company formed in 1950 by Frank X. McNamara, Ralph Schneider, and Matty Simmons. When it first emerged, it became the first independent credit card company in the world and established the concept of a self-sufficient company producing credit cards for travel and entertainment. Diners Club International and its franchises service affluent and well-travelled individuals from around the globe, with operations in 59 countries.
- 1 Origins
- 2 History
- 3 Acquisition by Discover Financial Services
- 4 North American franchise
- 5 Russia
- 6 Switzerland and Germany franchise
- 7 United Kingdom and Ireland franchise
- 8 Slovenian scandal
- 9 In popular culture
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 External links
The idea for Diners Club was conceived at the Major's Cabin Grill restaurant in New York City in 1949. Diners Club cofounder Frank McNamara was dining with clients and realized he had left his wallet in another suit. His wife paid the tab, and McNamara thought of a multipurpose charge card as a way to avoid similar embarrassments in the future. He discussed the idea with the restaurant owner at the table, and the following day with his lawyer Ralph Schneider and friend Alfred Bloomingdale.
McNamara returned to the same restaurant the following February and paid for his meal using a cardboard charge card and a signature. The story became well-known and is credited by historians as the beginnings of contemporary credit. Various versions of the story differ about whether it was a lunch or dinner at which McNamara forgot his wallet, and whether the bill was paid on loan or McNamara waited for his wife to drive his wallet to him. Some journalists later credited Alfred Bloomingdale with the idea for Diners Club.
McNamara and his attorney, Ralph Schneider, founded Diners Club International on February 8, 1950, with $1.5 million in initial capital. Alfred Bloomingdale joined briefly, then started a competing venture in California before merging his California-based Dine and Sign with Diners Club. Diners Club International was named for being a "club of diners" that would allow patrons to settle their bill at the end of each month through their credit account. When the card was first introduced, Diners Club listed 27 participating restaurants, and 200 of the founders' friends and acquaintances used it.
Diners Club had 20,000 members by the end of 1950 and 42,000 by the end of 1951. At the time, the company was charging participating establishments seven percent and billed cardholders $5 a year. In 1952, McNamara sold his interest in Diners Club to his partners for $200,000.
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Diners Club's monopoly was short-lived, as American Express and Carte Blanche (which later partnered with Diners Club) began to compete with Diners Club in the travel and entertainment (T&E) card market. American Express now dominates the "member card" arena, providing millions of customers with cards that require the monthly balance to be paid in full.
Towards the end of the 1960s, Diners Club also faced competition from banks that issued revolving credit cards through BankAmericard (later renamed Visa), and Interbank MasterCharge (later renamed MasterCard). Diners Club began early on to allow franchises of the Diners Club name, at first in Europe and later throughout the world, for many years eclipsing the BankAmericard or Interbank MasterCharge networks abroad. Starting in 1968, Amoco also issued for a time its own co-branded Diners Club cards called American Torch Club (later renamed Amoco Torch Club), and Sun Oil Company issued its version called Sun Diner Club Card starting in 1977.
In 1981, Citibank, a unit of Citigroup, acquired Diners Club International, the franchisor that holds rights to the Diners Club trademark, and many of the largest franchises worldwide. A majority of the franchises abroad remain independently owned.
Acquisition by Discover Financial Services
In a transaction completed July 1, 2008, Discover Financial Services purchased Diners Club International from Citibank for $165 million. The deal was announced in April 2008 and approved by the U.S. government in May 2008. By merging the North American Discover Network with the international Diners Club Network, Discover created a global payment processing system. Discover Bank has no plans to issue Diners Club-branded cards, which continue to be issued by Diners Club International licensees.
North American franchise
In 2004, Diners Club announced an agreement with MasterCard. Diners Club cards issued in the United States and Canada then featured a MasterCard logo and 16-digit account number on the front, and could be used wherever MasterCards were accepted. Cards from other countries continued to bear a 14-digit account number on the front, with the MasterCard logo on the back. However, since the takeover of Diners Club International by Discover Financial Services, these cards have had the Discover logo on the back.
Carte Blanche originated in 1958 as a rebranded Hilton Hotels travel & entertainment card. Hilton sold Carte Blanche to First National City Bank in 1966. Regulatory challenges forced First National City Bank to sell Carte Blanche to Avco in 1968. In 1978, Citicorp (parent company of First National City Bank which was renamed Citibank) reacquired Carte Blanche without regulatory opposition. The 1960s & 1970s-era Carte Blanche card was considered more prestigious worldwide than its competition, the American Express and Diners Club cards, though its small cardmember base hindered its success. Carte Blanche also was the first to implement a "Gold Card" program, but initially only as a means to recognize cardholders who were frequent users and paid their bills on time. In 1981, Citicorp would also acquire the Diners Club card and brand, and by the mid-1990s the Carte Blanche brand was slowly starting to be phased out in favor of Diners Club. Parent company Citigroup (also known as "Citi") was formed in 1998 with the merger of Citicorp and the Travelers Group. Citi issued a premium Diners Club card in 2000, naming it the Diners Club Carte Blanche card. It was an upper-level charge card on par with the American Express Platinum Card. The card carries a US$300 annual fee as of April 2015 and offers an extensive menu of perks. Although Diners Club requires payment in full within 30 days, corporate accounts can pay within 60 days without penalty. By 2005, the classic Carte Blanche card was finally phased out, with only the Diners Club Carte Blanche card remaining.
Diners Club expanded its customer base in Canada by acquiring the enRoute credit card from Air Canada in 1992, and marketed the card under the combined name for a period of time as the "Diners Club/enRoute Card". The enRoute business was valued at over $300 million at the time of acquisition. Diners Club remains a minor player in Canada.
Acquisition by BMO
In November 2009, Citibank announced that Diners Club International's North American franchise has been sold to Bank of Montreal (BMO). The deal gives BMO exclusive rights to issue Diners cards in the U.S. and Canada. At the time, BMO said the Diners Club fits well with its existing commercial card business, adding that commercial cards are one of the fastest growing segments in the credit card business.
On December 2010, Russian Standard Bank and Diners Club International have entered into an agreement for settlement transactions of the payment system in the Russian Federation. Under the Agreement, Russian Standard Bank will process settlement transactions of other banks acting as acquirers of Diners Club in the Russian Federation.
Switzerland and Germany franchise
In a transaction that closed on August 6, 2010, Citibank sold the Switzerland and Germany franchises to a private investment group headed by Anthony J. Helbling.
United Kingdom and Ireland franchise
On August 7, 2012, Citigroup, Inc. announced the sale of its Diners Club franchise in the United Kingdom and Ireland to Affiniture Cards Ltd., a private investor group.
In 2013, Tomaž Lovše, who owned Diners Club Slovenija, was one of three people investigated in Slovenia regarding unpaid debts that his franchise owed to merchants. In May, the Central Bank of Slovenia revoked the Diners Club Slovenija's license for payment services, which meant 80,000 local members could not use their card. Diners Club International transferred the franchise to a subsidiary of Austria's Erste Bank group, Erste Card Club, and agreed to repay the franchise's debt to merchants. An Erste press release in August 2013 stated that Diners Club services were once again available in Slovenia.
In popular culture
In the 1960 film The Apartment, Jack Kruschen playing Dr Dreyfus, makes a reference to Diners Club when lecturing Baxter (Jack Lemmon): "Live now, pay later. Diner's Club! Why don't you grow up, Baxter?"
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Last Monday, the flood of U.S. mail was swelled by over 12 million letters from American Oil Co., informing its credit customers of a chance to get in on the ground floor of the brand-new American Torch Club. By enrolling in the group, Amoco's present clientels will enjoy the charge privileges of the 275,000 establishments all around the globe which honor the cards of the Diners' Club.Link via ProQuest.
- "Majors Seek Ways to Cut Credit Card Costs to Zero". National Petroleum News 69 (6). June 1977. p. 49.
Sunmark is offering a new Sun/Diners Club credit card to its customers with an annual membership fee of $17.Link via ProQuest.
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- BMO to buy Diners Club franchise (requires subscription)[dead link]
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- "Diners club services enabled again in Slovenia" (PDF).
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