Facts About the Discover Credit Card

Discover also has a large chunk of the credit market even though it is still below Visa or MasterCard as well as American Express. It has only been around since 1986, and it has changed ownership several times, but it has managed to stay in business, grow and gain acceptance.


The Discover card was first issued by Sears and Roebuck in 1986, according to the Go Banking Rates credit card website. Sears had recently purchased brokerage company Dean Witter Reynolds and real estate firm Coldwell Banker. It lumped them together with Discover under the name "Sears Financial Network" as it tried to create a presence in the financial services market.


Go Banking Rates cites several Discover card features that were unique at the time the card was first issued, although they have become common in the overall credit card industry. Discover cards never had an annual fee, and Sears tended to give consumers higher credit limits than competing cards. They also started a cash back rewards program, with customers earning money for using the card.


Sears stopped accepting competing credit cards at its stores once it began issuing the Discover card. Customers had to use Discover or a Sears store card to charge a purchase. According to Go Banking Rates, this caused them to lose business from people who wanted to use their Visa or MasterCard rather than opening a brand new account. Many competing retailers opted not to accept the card, and Visa and MasterCard forbade their issuing banks from also issuing Discover cards. They were sued for this anti-competitive measure and lost the case after it went to the Supreme Court.


Sears sold its financial businesses in the early 1990s, and Dean Witter Reynolds took over the Discover card. Reynolds was purchased by Morgan Stanley in 1997, and this new owner made Discover Financial Services into an independent company 10 years later. Discover purchased Diner's Club in 2008.


Discover reports there are more than 54 million Discover cardholders in the United States as of the end of 2009. This is considerably less than Visa, which had 270 million cardholders in the same period, or MasterCard, which had 203 million credit card customers. It processed 1.6 billion dollars in purchases through the close of 2009. Discover ranks second in overall credit card satisfaction, according to J. D. Powers and Associates, with American Express as number one.