BMO brings MasterCard to Canada

Excerpt from A Vision Greater Than Themselves: The Making of The Bank of Montreal, 1817-2017 by Laurence B. Mussio

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Canada was one of the key world markets for the “Interbank Card System,” or the charge card system. The only major international bank card system in Canada by the early 1970s was Bankamericard, which was known as “Chargex” to Canadians. It was established in August 1968 and had 3.2 million cardholders and 50,000 participating merchants in the country.

The Bank of Montreal joined the Interbank Card System under the name of Master Charge. Together with the Provincial Bank (later National Bank), it entered the credit card market, frankly, belatedly, since the 240,000 Bank of Montreal customers in 1970 who held Chargex cards were clearly telling the Bank their intentions to move into this channel of consumer credit. Once the decision was taken to proceed, the bank mobilized its considerable technological resources to pilot, test, and introduce Master Charge to Bank of Montreal customers.

In March 1973, Chairman Fred McNeil announced that the Bank of Montreal and the Provincial Bank had chosen Master Charge as their preferred credit card. The Bank opted for Master Charge not least because it was the world’s best-known and accepted all-purpose bank charge card at the time. The revolution in credit was joined in earnest.

In 1977, Canadians held 8.2 million credit cards that were used at 27,150 different merchant terminals across the country. They spent $3.1 billion on credit annually. By 2014, Canadians possessed 72 million cards used at 1.4 million merchant terminals for a total of $369 billion spent annually on credit.


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