Robert McKinley
NBC Studios at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, NYC

Robert McKinley Biography

Robert McKinley is considered one of the foremost authorities on payment products and systems with 34 years of experience in the day-to-day analyses of the payments industry.

Robert McKinley was born near Pompey Smash in Western Maryland, educated in Hagerstown, Maryland and raised his family in Frederick, Maryland. He is the father of six children and grandfather of ten. His wife of 36 years passed away unexpectedly in late 2009.

Robert assembled award winning science exhibits on emerging transistor technology (PNP/NPN) at age 12, passed the top FCC broadcast engineering license (First Class) at age 15, developed a commercial radio personality by age 16, assisted in building a commercial television station, doing on-camera commercials, and directing at age 18. He launched his first real business, a background music business, at age 19.

Between 1980 and 1985 Mr. McKinley developed a modeling system for tracking the volatility of mutual funds and launched a service to assist fellow “baby boomer” investors meet their long-term goals. However, he stumbled onto a vast void of competitive information on retail banking products, especially the then explosive field of general purpose credit cards. In 1986, with the introduction of desktop publishing, he launched RAM Research® to assist consumers select the best product for their personal needs. Within two years the business expanded into gathering competitive and financial intelligence, coupled with analysis, for banking and financial institutions.

In 1988 Robert McKinley signed a contract with Dow Jones Company to provide a monthly list to be published in the Wall Street Journal and Barron’s.

Between 1986 and 1995 Robert McKinley’s RAM Research® grew exponentially as it developed new services. In 1991 he launched CardTrak®, the first consumer newsletter focused entirely on credit cards. His company was publicly recognized as the leader in payment card news and data by 1992.  Mr. McKinley was also publicly recognized as an expert in payment cards in 1992.

In September, 1995 Robert McKinley became an Internet pioneer with the launch of CardWeb.com® and CardTrak.com®, announced in conjunction with the annual ABA National Bank Card Conference in New York City. He also developed the first daily news service for the payment card industry called CardFlash®. Additionally, he assisted several large banks establish their first public Internet presence.

Robert McKinley is the most widely quoted and interviewed payments expert with more than 10,000 interviews and 20,000 citations published in U.S. newspapers, magazines and scores of on-camera TV and live radio interviews.

The Associated Press, American Banker, and New York Times ran major personal features on Robert McKinley’s RAM Research®, CardWeb® and CardTrak® businesses.  Every newspaper in the U.S. has repeatedly carried his quotations regarding the payments business. When General Motors announced its Rewards MasterCard product in September 1992, Mr. McKinley handled more than 100 interviews over a three day period.

Among the hundreds of on-camera television interviews he is best known for his appearances on PBS’ Frontline documentaries, NBC’s Today Show, CNN News, and all the network evening newscasts. He hosted the half hour CardWeb® TV program and was a regular on Businessweek’s weekly national Money Talks program. In 1995 McKinley handled more than 30 TV interviews in one day via satellite in Pittsburgh, on behalf of PNC Bank.

On national radio Mr. McKinley is best known for his live interviews on NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered. He was a regular on CBS Radio News.

In 1992 Robert McKinley was the first witness to take the stand for Visa in the Sears (Discover) vs Visa antitrust trial in Federal Court in Salt Lake City. Mr. McKinley was subsequently retained for many other significant litigation cases including filing affidavits and amicus briefs for New York State Attorney Eliot Spitzer.  In 1999 he was intensely deposed as a witness for the U.S. Department of Justice in its antitrust credit card and debit card litigation against Visa and MasterCard.

Robert McKinley is the author of dozens of books including the popular Managing Credit book published by Dorling Kindersley for its Essential Finance series.  He also authored and published payment card directories for seven U.S. regions, all 50 states and one international version.  He has assisted other personal finance and business book authors including Jean Chatzky, Suze Orman, Robert Manning, Ken & Daria Dolan, Bill Griffeth, Terry Savage, Andrew Tobias, Gerri Detwiler and Humberto Cruz.

Mr. McKinley has been a speaker, chairman and sponsor of many payments related conferences in both the U.S.  and abroad. In 1996 he was honored to follow Henry Golub, then Chairman/CEO of American Express, in a speech on Electronic Commerce at the Thomson Media Credit Card Conference in Atlanta, GA. He was Chairman  of the WRG Internet Strategies Conference in Washington, DC.  He was also a featured speaker at the annual Society of Business Editors and Writers convention in Chicago, and honored to follow a speech by Vanguard’s John Bogle. Robert McKinley, though his companies, co-sponsored payment-related conferences in London, Sydney, Singapore, Paris, and Dubai, as well as many in the U.S.

Robert McKinley was retained as a special projects consultant for GE Capital, RCA, Discover, Visa, PNC Bank, Toyota Financial, MCI, Diners Club, Wachovia, Great Western Bank,  Household Bank, Bain & Company, the Armed Forces Benefit Association, to name a few. He served U.S. clients from his offices in New York (Wall Street – Moving After 9/11 to Ave of the Americas), Bush Street in San Francisco, and Frederick, Maryland. Mr. McKinley served international clients from his Kent Street office in Sydney, Australia and his Piccadilly office in London, UK.

Mr. McKinley was honored to assist several lawmakers regarding legislation to reform business practices in the payments industry including Senator Christopher Dodd, Senator Charles Schumer, Representative Joe Kennedy, and state lawmakers in Maine, Minnesota, New York, California, North Carolina and Colorado, among others. He also concurred with then law school professor Elizabeth Warren, in 2004 (New York City) and 2009 (Washington, D.C.), while being interviewed for PBS consumer documentaries.

Robert McKinley provided major input to the U.S. Government Accounting Office for its U.S. Credit Card Industry report to Congress. He has also provided input to the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Department, U.S. Federal Trade Commission, Presidential Consumer Advisory Panel (Bush 41), Federal Reserve Board and the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Credit Card Panel.

In 1997, Robert McKinley developed the monthly online CardData® service for financial institutions to track and forecast critical financial metrics of the payment business including delinquencies, chargeoffs, gross profit margins, net interest margins, business costs, bankruptcies, return-on-assets, etc. CardData evolved from Mr. McKinley’s monthly RAM Bankcard Update and RAM Bankcard Barometer paper reports.  

In mid-September 2008, Robert McKinley was deeply impacted, financially, by the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, the ensuing “Credit Market Crisis,” the Bernard Madoff Investment Securities fraud, and the ongoing “Great Recession” from December 2007.

In early May 2009, Robert McKinley transferred the CardWeb® and CardTrak® businesses to two of his four sons and scaled back the RAM Research business to private consulting, in lieu of employee layoffs. He effectively retired at 57.

In late May 2009 Mr. McKinley dealt with a personal health scare (suspected stroke), an unexpected life threatening health crisis with his youngest son in August 2009, (requiring emergency lung surgery), and the unexpected death of his wife of 36 years on December 30, 2009 (due to left main artery disease caused by rheumatoid arthritis).

In July 2009, Mr. McKinley gave his last major taped TV interview for the PBS Frontline documentary program, wherein he discussed with Lowell Bergman impending banking regulations, correctly predicting the passage of Dodd-Frank and the subsequent establishment of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

On November 10, 2009, Mr. McKinley conducted his last live TV interview with Bloomberg News regarding Dodd-Frank. Ironically, the interview, from a Naples, Florida studio, was on the same day as his 36th wedding anniversary and exactly seven weeks before the passing of his wife.

In January 2010 Mr. McKinley sold his Frederick, Maryland home. In November 2012 he sold his beloved Bedford, Pennsylvania lodge to spend his retirement full-time at his Estero, Florida home and be closer to his children and grandchildren.

During the retirement period of 2009-2019, Mr. McKinley became involved in a number of non-profit organizations, including SCORE. He also conducted several investment research projects on the sub-prime credit card industry, third-party e-commerce platforms, ridesharing networks (pre-IPO), legacy product pricing litigation research, and regulatory barriers for legal cannabis payments.

At the encouragement of many colleagues from Florida, New York, California and Maryland during 2018, Mr. McKinley closely surveyed the payments landscape and social media, deciding to end his retirement.