Merchant Innovation

Throwback Thursday: Payments And Tech Commercials In The ’90s

There’s not much time in the payments, tech or commerce industries to step back and get a little nostalgic.

With everyone, PYMNTS included, more focused on the millions being poured into new startups, tracking which investors are backing which companies, keeping up with which banks are stirring up regulatory issues — it’s easy to forget about the simpler times.

Like when the Internet was still a fad. Or physical checks were still a prime way to pay. The times before the terms EMV, NFC or tokenization meant anything. Days when the news cycle meant picking up the daily paper instead of sifting through push notifications and apps to catch what’s going on in the world. Or when banking meant going into a bank’s branch and saying hello to a teller that probably knew how your kids were doing.

Those are the nostalgic times that have been quickly forgotten. Times that the history of payments, tech and commerce will one day talk about again. But for now, PYMNTS wanted to take this Throwback Thursday moment to take you back in time to catch a few entertaining commercials to help you say the phrase “remember when?”

Remember when the Internet looked like this?

Putting the throwback ’90s graphics aside, what’s interesting about this commercial about the “World Wide Web” is the mom in the commercial sharing how the Internet made it so she could pay the bills in half the time by paying online. It’s not unlike the companies today who try and market mobile bill pay to save consumers’ time and companies’ money. The video’s dad, of course, talks about how he can keep with the stock markets.


Now, let’s take a different path down memory lane into credit cards. A time when Visa reminded customers of one particular retailer where American Express wasn’t accepted, while Visa was “everywhere you want to be.”


Or then there’s MasterCard, which in the ’90s had the slogan “Master The Moment.” MasterCard even had a song created for it with a catchy little tune: “You’ve got the whole world in your hands, with MasterCard in your hand,” the song recites, later chiming in with a reminder for consumers that “no card opens more doors in more places than MasterCard.”

American Express

American Express’ commercial from the ’90s highlights a different type of perk from the credit card company at that time: purchase protection.

This humorous commercial shows a toddler putting oatmeal in a VCR (another point for TBT), and then shows the dad calling up his American Express agent to get the item replaced as part of the purchase protection. That’s also when American Express was known as a bit elitist, showing off “how it pays to be a member.”


“It puts money into your pocket instead of burning a hole in it.”

That’s how Discover promoted its cash-back rewards in the year 1991 — and it’s a perk that’s very much promoted as one of the top features of a Discover credit card.

This commercial attempts to demonstrate how consumers who aren’t carrying a Discover credit card are simply “burning a hole in their pocket.”


Moving toward the tech scene, let’s take a look at how Apple marketed its products in the ’90s. Keeping in theme with much of the same rhetoric seen today, Apple reminds consumers that it has the products to solve real-world issues and change the way business is done.

“The power to be your best,” the Apple promo flashes at the end. This video shows how Steve Jobs’ company promoted its tablets, computers and handheld devices long before the iPhone, MacBook or Apple Watch were even close to being brought into the mix.

Here’s how Apple viewed the future in the ’90s:


New PYMNTS Study: Subscription Commerce Conversion Index – July 2020 

Staying home 24/7 has consumers turning to subscription services for both entertainment and their day-to-day needs. While that’s a great opportunity for providers, it also presents a challenge — 27.4 million consumers are looking to cancel their subscriptions because of friction and cost concerns. In the latest Subscription Commerce Conversion Index, PYMNTS reveals the five key features that can help companies keep subscribers loyal despite today’s challenging economic times.

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