Discover Card

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Discover Financial Services
Industry Financial services
Founded 1985; 31 years ago (1985)
Founder Sears
Area served
United States (primary)
Parent Discover Financial
Divisions Discover Bank
Website discover.com

The Discover Card is a credit card, issued primarily in the United States. It was introduced by Sears in 1986. When launched, the Discover Card charged no annual fee and offered a higher-than-normal credit limit, features that were disruptive to the existing credit card industry. A subsequent innovation was "cash back bonuses" on purchases.[1]

Most cards with the Discover brand are issued by Discover Bank, formerly the Greenwood Trust Company. Discover Card transactions are processed through the Discover Network payment network. In February 2006, the company announced that it would begin offering Discover Debit cards to banks, made possible by the Pulse payment system, which Discover acquired in 2005.[2]

Discover Card is the fourth largest credit card brand in the U.S., behind Visa, MasterCard and American Express, with nearly 44 million cardholders.[3]

History[edit]

At the time the Discover Card was introduced, Sears was the largest retailer in the United States. It had purchased the Dean Witter Reynolds brokerage organization and Coldwell, Banker & Company (real estate) in 1981[4] as an attempt to add financial services to its portfolio of customer services. Ray Kennedy, Sr, father of country singer Ray Kennedy and the credit manager for Sears, conceived the card.[5] Together with the Discover Card (and its issuing bank, the Greenwood Trust Company, owned by Sears), this was named the Sears Financial Network. Early Discover Cards bore a small embossed symbol representing the Sears Tower, then the company's headquarters.

Discover was part of Dean Witter, and then Morgan Stanley, until 2007, when Discover Financial Services became an independent company.[6] Novus was once the major processing center that partnered with the company. The Novus logo was retired, replaced by the Discover Network logo.

Discover and Novus retired acceptance mark (still seen in many places)

Unlike other attempts at creating a credit card to rival MasterCard and Visa, such as Citibank's Choice card, the Discover Card gained a large national consumer base. It carried no annual fee, which was uncommon at the time, and offered a typically higher credit limit than similar cards. Cardholders could also earn a "Cashback Bonus," in which a percentage of the amount spent would be refunded to the account (from 1% to 5%), depending on how much the card was used.[7] A 1989 study found that the Discover card had strong consumer adoption in the U.S.; the number of households with Discover cards increased by 2.1 million, or 14 percent, in 1989.[8] The Discover Card was also noteworthy for being the only credit card accepted by the U.S. Customs Service to pay customs duty, effective Feb. 19, 1987.[9] Due to its not charging a percentage fee to retailers, unlike Visa, MasterCard, and American Express, Discover Card was also the only credit card accepted at Sam's Club; the retailer has since started to accept MasterCard, and American Express (see below).

The plan to create a one-stop financial-services center in Sears stores was not as successful as Sears had hoped, and its promotion of the Discover Card was thought both to hurt Sears turnover and to restrict the card's potential. Other retailers resisted it, as they believed they would be helping their competitor.

In light of these developments, and with strong competition both from Wal-Mart and from so-called category killers such as Toys "R" Us, Sears began to face difficulties in the late 1980s. The Discover Card’s introduction was costly; Sears’s Discover credit card operations accounted for a loss of $22 million in the fourth quarter of 1986, and a loss of $25.8 million in the first quarter of 1987.[10] Sears sold its financial businesses in 1993, and began to accept MasterCard and Visa in addition to its store credit card and the Discover Card. The Discover Card became part of the Dean Witter financial services firm. Dean Witter Discover merged with Morgan Stanley in 1997. In 2000, Greenwood Trust changed its name to Discover Bank.[11]

In 2015, due to the growth of Chinese card processor UnionPay, Discover became the world's most widely accepted card. [12]

Discover Bank[edit]

The Greenwood Trust Company was founded in 1911 and is based in Greenwood, Delaware. It was acquired by Discover Financial Services in 1985 and renamed Discover Bank in 2000. The first and original location of Greenwood Trust Co. on East Market Street is still operating and remains the only banking location of Discover Bank.[13]

Business developments[edit]

Discover it card, the flagship card issued by Discover Financial Services.

In October 2004, the Supreme Court upheld a ruling in Discover Card's favor that challenged exclusionary policies of Visa and MasterCard. Before this ruling, Visa and MasterCard would not allow banks to issue a Discover (or American Express) Card if they issued a Visa or MasterCard. Within days of the court ruling, Discover Card filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking damages from Visa and MasterCard. In 2005, Discover Card acquired Pulse, an electronic funds transfer association, allowing it to issue and market debit and ATM cards.

Shortly after the 2004 Supreme Court ruling, Discover struck its first deal to have its card issued by another bank, GE Consumer Finance, which began to issue credit cards for retailer Wal-Mart and its wholesale warehouse stores, Sam's Club.[14] Transactions for both cards were processed on the Discover Network. Sam's Club exclusively accepted Discover Card for many years; since November 2006, it has also accepted MasterCard for purchases. In April 2014, Walmart announced that they were ending their relationship with Discover and would begin converting all Discover Network-branded cards to MasterCard beginning in June 2014.[15]

HSBC has issued credit cards processed through the Discover Network, and branded with the Discover logo, since its acquisition of card issuer Metris in late 2005. Metris had originally signed an agreement with Discover in September 2005, three months prior to the HSBC acquisition.

Morgan Stanley had long desired to sell the Discover Card business, and in April 2005, announced that it would divest Discover Financial Services as an independent company within six months. By June, industry sources reported that Morgan Stanley was reassessing its plan to spin off Discover. Finally, in August 2005, the company confirmed it would not sell Discover. In yet another reversal, in December 2006, Morgan Stanley announced it would spin off Discover as a standalone company by the end of August 2007. The spin-off was finalized ahead of schedule, on June 30, 2007.[16]

In September 2012, Discover was ordered to pay over $200 million in fines and customer reimbursements to settle accusations by U.S. federal regulators that it had engaged in deceptive telemarketing tactics.[17]

Advertising[edit]

From 1998 to 2007, Discover Card owned a billboard at One Times Square, just above the flagpole where the Times Square Ball is placed, until Toshiba bought the space. As a result, its logo could be seen on national television during New Year's Eve, while the ball was dropped. Discover also sponsored the ball drop itself.[18][19]

From its opening in 2001 to 2012, Sugarloaf Mills Mall in Lawrenceville, Georgia was named Discover Mills in a naming rights partnership with Discover Card. The slogan for the mall was "Where Discover Card is the Smart Choice." It was the first shopping mall to have granted naming rights to interested companies.[20][21]

In popular culture[edit]

In the Futurama episode "A Fishful of Dollars", Fry attempts to buy a pair of briefs with his various credit cards. As he lists the card companies, the cashier apologizes and says they have been closed for multiple centuries. When he gets to his Discover card, the cashier says they do not take Discover.

In 2007, American animated television series Family Guy made fun of the Discover card. In the episode, "No Meals on Wheels", which first aired on March 25, A customer asks Peter if his restaurant accepts the Discover card, which leads Peter to list several comical alternative methods of payment that he would rather accept.

In 2016, the American animated television series American Dad! poked fun at the Discover card. In the episode, "The Devil Wears a Lapel Pin", which first aired on March 7, Roger gets a "Discovery" card, and he and Steve search for stores that will accept it, finally finding them in a mall which hasn't changed since the 1980s.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Vasquez, Jose. “History of Discover Card”. 2009-01-08. Retrieved 2016-11-28.
  2. ^ "Merger of Discover Financial Services and Pulse EFT Association closes following Pulse member approval" (Press release). Discover Financial Services. 2005-01-12. Retrieved 2007-10-22. 
  3. ^ Holmes, Tamara P. "Credit card market share statistics". CreditCards.com, 2016-06-22. Retrieved 2016-12-04.
  4. ^ "A Brief Chronology of Sears History". Sears Brands, LLC. Retrieved 2009-08-12. 
  5. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1996). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Country Hits, p.173. ISBN 0-8230-7632-6.
  6. ^ “Discover flying solo”. The Green Sheet, 2007-07-09. Retrieved 2016-12-04.
  7. ^ Simon, Jeremy M. Credit card reward programs: a short history. CreditCards.com, 2006-11-14. Retrieved 2016-12-04.
  8. ^ Aguilar, Linda. Banks and nonbanks at the end of the ‘80s. Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, 1990-03-01.
  9. ^ Customs Service Rules on Credit Cards. Journal of Commerce. Retrieved 2016-12-05.
  10. ^ Barmash, Isadore. "Sears Net Rises 47.4% in Quarter", The New York Times, 1987-04-22.
  11. ^ "Greenwood Trust Company Renamed Discover Bank" (Press release). Discover Financial Services. 2000-08-01. 
  12. ^ "Discover tops Mastercard, Visa as planet's most-accepted payment card". 2016-09-28. 
  13. ^ "Discover Bank". 
  14. ^ Kingson, Jennifer A. "Credit Card Issuers Adjust to Open Field", The New York Times, 2005-03-26.
  15. ^ Lee Enterprises. "Wal-Mart taps MasterCard for store-branded credit card". stltoday.com. 
  16. ^ “Discover flying solo”. The Green Sheet, 2007-07-09. Retrieved 2016-12-05.
  17. ^ "Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Order Discover to Pay $200 Million Consumer Refund for Deceptive Marketing". Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. 
  18. ^ Metro Business; Discover Is Sponsor For Year 2000 Event
  19. ^ Back in Times Square, Toshiba Stands Tall
  20. ^ "The Mills Corporation Announces the Grand Opening of Discover Mills". PR Newswire. Retrieved 9 March 2016. 
  21. ^ Sawicki, Beth (21 September 2012). "Discover Mills renamed Sugarloaf Mills". Gannett. 11 Alive News. Retrieved 9 March 2016.