Happy Birthday Chargex: The Credit Card turns 50

These days, mentioning the word Chargex in conversation will be met with a lot of blank stares. It's a word that has been lost to history for many people.

But for Tom Young, Doug Hamilton and Mike Gibson, Chargex was the start of something groundbreaking and a major milestone in their careers.

Chargex, known at the time as Project C, was TD's first ever Canadian Credit Card and it launched on August 19, 1968. Young, Hamilton and Gibson were all TD employees in the 1960s and were instrumental in the launch of Chargex.

In the mid-60s, bank culture was, as you can imagine, different than it is today. TD was mainly focused on big business and although personal deposits were always welcome, customers looking for credit options were not overly encouraged.

Chargex changed all that.

"The idea behind Chargex really came from a couple of people at TD who had seen what was going on elsewhere and knew we needed to step up to the plate," explained Young, a former TD Credit Cards employee. "There was push back at first, of course, but Project C was eventually approved and that's when the work really began."

When Chargex was first launched, TD was still very much in the era of pen and paper; virtually all banking activity took place inside the four walls of the branch and no paperwork ever left the building.

So, when it came to acquiring new cardholders, the Chargex team had to work with branch employees to determine which clients could be approved for a credit card and how much credit would be available to them. Talk about a lot of work.

"One idea we came up with at the beginning was to set short expiration dates on credit cards," said Gibson." That way, if the card ended up in the wrong hands, it wouldn’t be valid in a matter of months. It helped us to weed out the bad apples. You have to understand that we truly had no roadmap going into it. We had to devise new systems for everything that we were doing and hope to come to the right conclusion in the end."

"At times it seemed like an awfully bumpy ride, almost like we were taking two steps forward and one step back," added Hamilton. "Nobody had done it, so we really were making things up as we went along. For a group with limited experience in the credit card business, and everything that came with it, I would say we did a fine job."

Thinking back to August 1968, Young, Hamilton and Gibson likely couldn’t have imagined what the future would hold for Chargex and all the success that would come with the project. Today, it's great to celebrate such a big milestone and the people that made it happen, but even more exciting to look ahead at what the next 50 years will hold.