‘Mad Men’ money: Credit in the smoking era

A cigarette and martini lifestyle wasn’t great for your health, but Americans did borrow smarter in the mid-century. Banking was more personal and relationship-oriented, credit card debt was rare, as most people paid with cash, and loans were available at local shops with low or no interest. Saving was the norm as were Christmas clubs and S&H Green Stamps as incentives for buying. Not so hot: credit reports were unavailable to consumers and not well regulated, women and minorities were discriminated against in lending, and consumer protection laws were in their infancy. A better time for consumers? Maybe.

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