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The Carte Bleue – a French success story

The launch of the Carte Bleue was one of the banking sector’s greatest innovations in the past decades. The card, created in 1967, had many hurdles to cross before it became established in France.

The early stages of the blue card

The French Carte Bleue originated from an inspiration. It was sparked off by the Chase Manhattan Bank which developed the credit card system at the end of the 1950s. French commercial banks took an interest in this concept and in 1965 started to collaborate. After two years of study and reflection, the Carte Bleue was introduced by 5 leading banks: Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP), Crédit Lyonnais, Société Générale, Crédit Commercial de France and Crédit Industriel et Commercial.

Greeted with suspicion

At this time, the French authorities wanted France to make up for lost time in terms of information technologies. This meant promoting French style IT. For all that, storekeepers greeted the carte bleue with suspicion. During the first year, only 12,000 of them adopted this mode of payment. Banks took a commission on each transaction and this was viewed very badly. The CB was very slow to develop. In 1970, 40,000 storekeepers had adopted it and there were 400,000 cardholders in France. With the creation of automated teller machines (ATMs) in 1968, it gradually became part of French peoples’ everyday lives. On 1 April 1974, an international carte bleue was launched in addition to the national system. It allowed people to pay for their purchases and withdraw money abroad.

Inter-banking – a French tour de force

To reinforce the position of the blue card, an inter-banking system was necessary. In 1984, after intense negotiations, the Banques Populaires and then Crédit Agricole joined the Groupement Carte Bleue. The CB continued to develop and in 2003, it became the first means of payment in France. The smart card was adopted in 1985, reinforcing security. It was not until 2015 that its use become widespread in the USA.

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