Our History

From a credit card pioneer to a leading direct bank.

The success behind what makes us one of the nation's leading direct banks today is the same as what made us a pioneer in 1986 when we launched the Discover card: a focus on the customer and a commitment to be different, to be better and to offer the best service in the business.

Putting customers first is in our DNA.

Discover brought innovation and change to the credit card industry - change that focused on features and services that consumers wanted, but couldn't find in other credit cards. Discover changed that by pioneering cash rewards and offering a card with no annual fee. We've never lost sight of our heritage and remain focused on the customer today.

We have one of the most recognized brands in U.S. financial services.

Today, Discover is a leading direct bank and electronic payment services company. Our direct bank issues the company's flagship credit card business and offers an array of banking products, such as private student loans, personal loans, home equity loans, checking and savings accounts, certificates of deposit and money market accounts. Discover operates PULSE, one of the nation's leading ATM/debit networks; Discover Network, with millions of merchant and cash access locations; and Diners Club International, a global payments network with acceptance in more than 185 countries and territories.
View Interactive Timeline
View Interactive Timeline


  • Test marketing begins.

    The first purchase with a Discover card was for $26.77 on Sept. 17, 1985, by a Sears employee from the Chicago area at a Sears store in Atlanta. Test marketing continued in Atlanta and San Diego prior to the national rollout.

  • Discover card launches nationally.

    Dean Witter Financial Services Group, Inc., a subsidiary of Sears, Roebuck and Co., launched the Discover card in a national campaign highlighted by the "Dawn of Discover" television commercial during Super Bowl XX.

  • Discover network signs its 1 millionth merchant.

    Vincente's Restaurant in Wilmington, Delaware begins accepting Discover cards.

  • Dean Witter, Discover & Co. becomes a new publicly traded company.

    Dean Witter Financial Services Group, Inc., spins off from Sears on March 1, 1993, into an independent publicly traded company known as Dean Witter, Discover & Co. with the stock ticker symbol DWD.

  • launches. debuts in September 1995. Today it offers card applications and provides options to pay bills, redeem rewards, receive e-mail reminders and earn extra rewards through our online retail partners.

  • Novus is born.

    In 1995, Discover Card Services, Inc. changed its name to NOVUS Services, Inc., distinguishing the company's network functions from the Discover card. NOVUS Services, Inc. eventually was renamed Discover Financial Services, Inc., on Feb. 1, 1999.

  • Dean Witter, Discover & Co. merges with Morgan Stanley Group, Inc.

    The merged company is initially referred to as Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, Discover & Co.

  • Discover Platinum Card announced.

    On Dec. 22 the company introduced Discover Platinum, a premium card featuring new ways to increase rewards, low balance transfer and annual percentage rates, no annual fee, expanded credit lines and enhanced services.

  • Discover launches the Morgan Stanley Card in the United Kingdom.

    The launch marks the company's first international expansion.

  • Greenwood Trust Company becomes Discover Bank.

    Greenwood Trust Company incorporated in 1911 and was acquired in 1985. The Greenwood Trust Company name was changed to Discover Bank on Aug. 1, 2000 and represents the company's only banking branch.

  • Discover card launches the industry's first keychain credit card.

    The Discover 2GO Card was recognized as one of the "Best Products of 2002" by editors and reporters from Business Week and USA Today.

  • Discover gift cards introduced.

    The launch of these prepaid stored value cards was announced on Oct. 15, 2003. They can be redeemed wherever Discover network cards are accepted and can be ordered with personalized embossing and include a greeting card.

  • Gas and miles rewards cards introduced.

    The Gasoline Card (renamed Open Road in 2007) awards 5% Cashback Bonus on gas purchases. The Miles Card by Discover card allowed redemption with as little as 2,500 miles for non-flight reward options.

  • Paperless statements introduced.

    Discover introduces the option for paperless statements to minimize the impact on the environment and reduce clutter for customers.

  • Landmark U.S. Department of Justice antitrust lawsuit resolved.

    The resolution of the U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit against Visa and MasterCard for anticompetitive practices cleared the way for financial institutions to issue cards on competing networks.

  • DFS acquires PULSE payments network.

    This acquisition enabled PULSE and its more than 4,000 member banks, credit unions and savings institutions to join with the Discover network and its 4 million merchant and cash access locations.

  • Discover signs agreement with Wal-Mart and GE Consumer Finance.

    The new co-branded Wal-Mart – Discover card to be issued by GE.

  • First China UnionPay card transaction in the U.S.

    On Dec. 5, 2005, executives from the People's Bank of China purchased a necktie in New York with a card issued in China, marking the first acceptance of a China UnionPay bankcard in the United States. This transaction marked the beginning of a strategic alliance between China UnionPay and Discover Financial Services for reciprocal card acceptance.

  • Discover Financial Services completes acquisition of major U.K. card issuer.

    Discover Financial Services acquired Goldfish, a leading rewards card issuer in the U.K. Discover sold its Goldfish portfolio in March 2008.

  • Discover Debit launches.

    On Feb. 13, 2006, Discover Financial Services became the first credit card services company to compete directly with Visa and MasterCard in the rapidly growing signature debit market.

  • Discover and largest card issuer in Japan sign reciprocal card acceptance agreement.

    Discover Financial Services announced on Aug. 23, 2006, its reciprocal card acceptance agreement with JCB, the largest card issuer and acquirer in Japan, which helps lead to increased card acceptance for both companies.

  • Discover joins industry effort to form security standards.

    Discover network unites with Visa, MasterCard, American Express and JCB to form the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Security Standards Council, which was designed to manage the ongoing payment account security throughout the transaction process.

  • Discover Business card launches.

    Discover Financial Services launched the Discover Business card in June 2006 as a single payment solution for small business owners.

  • Discover signs its first merchant acquiring agreement.

    On July 14, 2006, Discover Financial Services and First Data Corp., a global leader in electronic commerce and payment services, announced First Data, the first of many industry-leading acquirers, to offer Discover network card services to small- and mid-sized merchants as part of a strategic initiative to increase acceptance.

  • Morgan Stanley announces Discover spin-off.

    During a fourth quarter earnings report on Dec. 19, 2006, Morgan Stanley CEO John J. Mack announced that Morgan Stanley would spin off Discover Financial Services into an independent publicly traded company in the third quarter of 2007.

  • First Discover network card transaction in China.

    David Nelms, Discover Financial Services CEO, purchases a bronze horse with his Discover card on Nov. 8, 2006, marking the first transaction using a Discover network card in China.

  • New Discover Motiva card is first to offer rewards for good credit management.

    On March 13, 2007, Discover announced the launch of the Discover Motiva card, the credit card that gives cardmembers cash rewards for making six on-time monthly payments in a row.

  • Discover More card replaces Discover Platinum card.

    The Discover More card, previously known as the Discover Platinum card, was introduced in April 2007.

  • Discover Financial Services begins trading on the NYSE as DFS.

    Discover Financial Services becomes an independent public company on June 30, 2007, and begins trading on the NYSE for the first time on July 2.

  • Discover commissions consumer spending survey.

    On July 18, 2007, Discover released the results of a new monthly index – The Discover Spending Confidence Monitor – that queries about 15,000 adult consumers every month on their spending intentions and capacity.

  • Discover acquires Diners Club International.

    The acquisition of Diners Club International in July 2008 put Discover on the path to global acceptance. The integration of networks allows Discover cardholders to use their cards globally on the Diners Club network. Established in 1950, Diners Club International is credited with creating the first multipurpose charge card in the world.

  • Discover wins $2.75 billion in damages to settle antitrust lawsuit against Visa and MasterCard.

    Discover sought damages for imposing rules that prohibited member banks from issuing credit and debit cards over Discover network. Discover received $2.75 billion in the October 2008 settlement, the third largest reported antitrust settlement in U.S. history.

  • Discover offers a biodegradable card.

    In December, Discover started offering the only biodegradable consumer credit card in the market. The card is made of biodegradable PVC, a substance that allows 99% of the card plastic to be safely absorbed when exposed to landfill conditions.

  • Discover introduces the Spend Analyzer tool.

    In February, Discover introduced Spend Analyzer, an innovative, easy-to-use online tool that provides cardmembers with a visual representation of their Discover card purchases for the past 24 months.

  • Discover launches

    Discover launched a new interactive website in November: The site combines all of the ways that cardmembers can maximize their Cashback Bonus rewards.

  • iPhone app available to Discover cardmembers.

    In November, Discover introduced its Discover app for iPhone and iPod Touch users, which allows cardmembers to manage their accounts on the go.

  • Alliance with Korea's BCcard adds network volume.

    Discover announced in January a network-to-network acceptance alliance with BCcard, a leading Korean payments network.

  • CardBuilder tool unveiled.

    In early 2010, Discover launched an interactive tool that helps prospective cardmembers build their own cards. Applicants select terms, rewards preferences and card design.

  • Discover acquires major originator of student loans.

    Discover acquires The Student Loan Corporation expanding Discover's market presence and origination capabilities in private student loans.

  • Discover signs strategic partnership with Softcard to build nationwide mobile payment network.

    Discover and Softcard announced a strategic partnership to build a mobile payment network that utilizes mobile phones to make point-of-sale purchases.

  • Discover begins its sponsorship of college football's Orange Bowl.

    Discover sponsors its first Orange Bowl in Florida with Stanford beating Virginia Tech 40-12. Discover's sponsorship also includes the 2013 BCS National Championship.

  • Discover enters a float in the 2011 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena.

    Discover enters its first float in the Tournament of Roses Parade and receives the Grand Marshal award for excellence in creative concept and design.

  • Discover teams up with

    Discover cardmembers can now pay directly with Casback Bonus for purchases at

  • Diners Club International increases acceptance in Europe.

    WorldPay, the largest European acquirer and Diners Club International reach an agreement that will increase the acceptance of Discover and Diners Club cards in the U.K.

  • Discover bank wins award for supporting low-and moderate-income housing relief.

    Discover Bank was named the first recipient of the Consumer Bankers Association (CBA) Joe Belew Award, an honor presented to an association member that demonstrates the most innovative and effective program to address a pressing social issue.

  • A new float and partnership is launched on Thanksgiving Day.

    Discover renews a multi-year sponsorship with the NHL and becomes the title sponsor of the inaugural NHL on NBC broadcast on Thanksgiving Friday. Discover and the NHL also introduced a co-branded float that appeared in the Macyís Thanksgiving Day Parade that featured Grammy-Award winning artist Cee-Lo Green.

  • Discover reaches a successful financial milestone.

    In 2011, Discoverís direct-to-consumer deposits grew to $26 billion.

  • Discover surprises a Cardmember with $1 million in the 2011 Discover Everyday Giveaway.

    Throughout the year, 12 cardmembers each won $25,000 and could choose a public school of their choice to receive an additional $25,000. Bill Kirkpatrick from Northbrook, IL was the $1 million grand prize winner. Discoverís Everyday Giveaway Sweepstakes also awarded $325,000 to public schools across the country as part of the monthly prize in 2011.

  • A Discover float is entered in the Tournament of Roses Parade.

    The Discover "Dream Believers" float is awarded the Grand Marshal Award in the 2012 Rose Parade in Pasadena, California.

  • West Virginia topples Clemson to win the 2012 Orange Bowl.

    The West Virginia Mountaineers beat the Clemson Tigers 70 to 22 in the second Discover Orange Bowl. As part of its sponsorship and commitment to the local community, Discover donated $100,000 to Junior Achievement of South Florida.

  • Discover introduces Home Loans to its Direct Banking Portfolio.

    Discover completes the acquisition of the Home Loan Center and officially launches Discover Home Loans.

  • Discover supports financial education in high schools.

    A five year, $10 million commitment called Pathway to Financial Success is made by Discover to help bring financial education curriculum to public high schools across the U.S.

  • Discover cards are issued internationally for the first time.

    Agreements are made with banks in Ecuador and Russia to issue the first Discover cards outside the U.S.

  • Google Wallet is offered to Discover cardmembers.

    A partnership with Google allows Discover cardmembers to save their credit card directly into Google Wallet.

  • Paypal partners with Discover to bring services to millions of merchant locations.

    Discover and Paypal work to make Paypal available at millions of in-store locations across the U.S.

  • Florida State University beats Northern Illinois University in Discover's third Orange Bowl.

    The Seminoles defeat the Huskies 31 - 10 in the 2013 Discover Orange Bowl.

  • Discover Sponsors its first BCS National Championship.

    The Alabama Crimson Tide rout the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 42-14, in the much anticipated Discover BCS national Championship game in Miami Gardens, Florida. While sponsoring the BCS, Discover provided a $118,000 grant to Miami-Dade County Public Schools to bring financial education to students.

  • Discover Cashback Checking is offered.

    Discover extends its direct banking reach with the addition of Casback Checking paying customers 10 cents for every debit card purchase, Online Bill Payment and check written.

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