Diners Club International, originally founded as Diners Club, was formed in 1950 by Frank X. McNamara, Ralph Schneider and Alfred Bloomingdale. When it first emerged, it became the first independent credit card company in the world.
While many stores and businesses were in the practice of extending credit to their customers, or allowing them to set up charge accounts, the revolutionary idea behind Diners Club was that the same card could be used to pay a variety of merchants. In 1950, the first Diners Club cards were given out to 200 associates of McNamara, mostly salesmen who often needed to dine with clients. At that time, Diners Club had signed up 14 restaurants in New York City. Membership grew quickly as both new customers applied for the card and more restaurants signed on. By the end of 1950, Diners Club had 20,000 customers and was accepted at over 1000 restaurants.
In 1952, McNamara sold his share of the company, which continued to grow unabated for several years, eventually signing merchants all over the United States. Their monopoly was short-lived, however, as the more generalized American Express and BankAmericard (later renamed VISA) arrived towards the end of the decade.
Diners Club expanded its customer base in Canada by acquiring the en route Card from Air Canada in the 1992, and marketed the card under the combined name for a period of time as the Diners Club/en route Card. Diners Club remains a minor player in Canada.
Today, Diners Club International is a part of Citibank, a unit of Citigroup, and has expanded its coverage to include all types of merchants instead of being limited to restaurants.
Carte Blanche was a minor credit card that was acquired by Citibank and phased out of service. In 2000, the Carte Blanche name was revived when Diners Club, which was also acquired by Citibank, introduced an upscale version of its card: the Diners Club Carte Blanche Card. It is an upper-level charge card on par with the American Express Platinum card. The card carries a US$300 annual fee and offers an extensive menu of perks geared toward affluent travelers. It is accepted wherever regular Diners Club cards are accepted.