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So by early 1980, with New York refusing to go along, Citibank set out on a search for new place to base its credit card division. Usury laws were still on the books in the vast majority of the states. In an effort to stimulate the local economy, South Dakota was in the midst of eliminating its usury laws. To preempt concerns from local banks about new competition, Citibank also promised to open only "a limited" bank. "All we want to do is use it to issue cards.'' For Mr. "To me, this wasn't a credit card deal, it was a jobs deal," he said. I was slowly bleeding to death." With bipartisan support and backing from South Dakota's banking association, Janklow proposed a special "emergency'' bill. "I was going to sleep at night thinking that we were the new financial center of America.'' But other states were quick to catch on.And federal banking rules required that before banks could set up operations outside their home state, a formal invitation had to be issued by the legislature of the state they wanted to enter. "We'll put the facility in an inconvenient place for customers and we'll pay different interest rates," Mr. "Citibank actually drafted the legislation,'' he said. Delaware, which passed similar legislation the following year, would foil Mr. "By that time, we'd captured a lot, but we thought we were going to get them all.The trouble, simply put, was that the rate of inflation exceeded the amount of interest Citibank was allowed to charge its credit card customers under New York usury laws.But the bankers saw opportunity and salvation in the plains of South Dakota. That South Dakota saved Citibank.'' Those long ago phone calls were a pivotal moment in the ascendancy of America's credit card industry.Cards were mailed to convicted felons, toddlers, even dogs. Nightly news reports ran stories about corrupt postal workers feeding stolen cards to organized crime rings.Suburban housewives who had never received cards were getting billed for thousands of dollars of charges.

Those banks that survived these early debacles began to find their footing in the 1970s.Cardholders, it turned out, were willing to keep on paying 18 percent interest long after inflation subsided and the Federal Reserve lowered the interest rates it charged banks.Between 19, the number of credit cards more than doubled, credit card spending increased more than five-fold and the average household credit card balance rose from 8 to nearly ,700."That's never happened to me before or since." The inflationary spiral that pushed Citibank to the precipice of disaster propelled the credit card industry into a decade of enormous profits.The elimination of usury restrictions paved the way for double-digit growth.

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