The first paper gasoline credit card was issued by Texaco in 1914. Most of the other major oil companies, such as Humble (Exxon), Standard of California (Chevron), and Shell started their credit card operations in the 1920s. Most gasoline companies did not issue cards during World War II. After the war, paper cards were still in use.
Laminated paper cards
Some oil companies laminated later editions of their paper cards or provided plastic slip cases for their cards. Both tended to prolong the life of the card – even though most paper cards were only valid for a three month period or one year at most. Those companies include Esso, Gulf, and DX.
Metal plate cards
Only a very few companies used metal charge plates in the early 1950s, such as Marathon and Champlin.
In 1955 a few companies – Humble, Shamrock, and Amoco – used a paper card with a small metal plate attached to the back of the card. The metal plate was used in an imprinter. The plate had the name and account number on it.
Combination with plastic card holder
In 1957, Chevron, Humble, Shamrock, and Shell used a plastic credit card holder with a slot in the back for the insertion of a paper card. The plastic holder had the name and account number embossed on it and was used from 1957 through 1959.
The paper card inserted in the back was valid for either three months or one year – depending on the customer. Neither the plastic pouch or paper insert card was valid without the other.
The first plastic gas cards
Amoco and Sohio were the first gas cards to go plastic as we know it today, in 1956. Most oil companies opted for the standard size cards while a few, such as Cities Service, Sinclair, Richfield, Union, and Royalite, issued the smaller “princess” size card. They all eventually changed over to the standard size card, too.
The British American Oil Co., in Canada – owned by Gulf – was the last oil company to convert to the plastic card in 1963.
Exxon cards were first issued in November 1972. Esso cards were just one type of card issued by the company prior to that. Only in the states where Humble had the rights to the “Standard” name could they call their stations Esso.
The “Standard” name
In the states where Amoco had the rights to the “Standard” name, or Chevron had the rights to the “Standard” name, Standard Oil of NJ (Esso) had to call their stations something other than Esso. They used the name Enco, Humble, Carter, Pate, and Oklahoma. All of these had separate credit cards.
In the state of Ohio, Sohio has the rights to the “Standard” name so the Esso stations in Ohio were called Humble stations and the customers living in Ohio were given Humble credit cards.
The Sohio stations in the state of Michigan were called Boron stations, since Amoco had the right to call their stations, in that state, Standard.
In Ohio, Amoco had to call their stations either American or Amoco.
This confusion was the reason that Standard Oil of NJ decided to call their company Exxon so that their service stations, in all states which they marketed, could be under one name. The outcome was that all customers received one card, Exxon – rather than two or three or more of the others.
Copyright 1986 by Arthur Bloch, III