Card envy lives on. Back in the day it used to be the color of the plastic — with gold or platinum at the top. Now metal cards reign, seemingly the heavier the better. Social media users take to TikTok to show off the sound their cards make dropped on a countertop compared to the cheap sound of plastic, telling fellow entrepreneurs to “work until your cards sound different.”
Metal cards are a chic club, but that doesn’t mean financial marketers can’t get creative with their debit or credit cards to satisfy the desire of mass-market consumers to use a cool-looking card — and use it more often.
Banks and credit unions might think their marketing teams should be focused entirely on the digital footprint. After all, during Covid-19, fears about spreading the virus generated a dread of using cards. In the post-vaccine world, much of that fear has diminished and people are pulling out their plastic (and metal) cards again.
The Financial Brand searched online to find striking examples of card design. Some are highly creative in their approach, others are colorful and some offbeat. There are also some great minimalistic cards looking as sharp as an Armani suit.
Most of these cards have been rolled out by financial institutions, but there are also a handful designed as mock-ups or “credit card skins.” The latter cleverly allows people to customize their existing credit or debit card by applying a sticker right onto the card. We included a few of these because they give marketers an idea of what’s possible.
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Carbon card skins
Card-skin company Carbon came up with this knockout design that would be a natural for any devotee of the card gaming arts.
Venmo, best known for its P2P payments app, partnered with Synchrony Bank in 2021 to roll out a credit card (which tells you something about the staying power of credit cards). Venmo’s card has a unique feature: Users can let friends and family scan their personal QR code printed on the card to send them money digitally.
( Dig Deeper: Venmo’s Real Threat to Banking: Making Payments Fun )
Rarely, if ever, has a financial institution issued a card in day-glow green, but that simple design choice helps neobank Sync’s X card stand out in a sea of ho-hum plastic.
It can’t actually be a wooden credit card, right? Actually it is. Neobank Treecard’s card is made from sustainably sourced cherry wood, supplemented by materials from recycled plastic bottles. Nice for people wanting to make a less bling-like statement.
Just to show you that design counts even with virtual cards, we put in this example from neobank Up. For banks and credit unions that are looking to offer virtual cards, Up shows how to do it artfully.
( Learn More: Neobank Tracker: What 14 Digital Challengers Can Teach You )
While some new financial companies have taken innovation to the next level with their card game, other institutions utilize a colorful approach to make their plastic look stunning for their customers. Here were some of The Financial Brand’s favorites:
Supporting LGBTQ+ populations is a high priority for several financial institutions. One of them, U.S. Bank, introduced its debit cards with bright rainbow colors. U.S. Bank even let its consumers submit their own designs in a competition. Atlanta Artist Olivia Ogba entered her design, and it made it onto the bank’s debit card in April 2020.
Marygold and Co.
The portrait style has never been better executed than on the Marygold & Co. debit card. Oftentimes, a microchip can be an awkward fixture on a credit card, but Marygold, a neobank, built its signature flower around the small rectangle to create its beautiful debit card.
American Express mock-up
Don’t be mistaken: this isn’t an actual American Express card. Not yet anyway. One member of Behance — an online creative artist network — took to her artboard to renovate the traditional, single-color take that AmEx traditionally uses for its cards. Karol Banach, the artist, designed three similar cards in different color schemes.
PKO Bank mock-up
Like the mock-up above for an American Express card, this design for Poland’s PKO Bank was created by a Behance user named Agnieszka Sukiennik. Its color and unique design help this card stand out.
Wells Fargo has always used its stagecoach logo — in one way or another — on its debit and credit cards with its pack of horses in motion. An easily recognizable card is a good approach for any financial institution, but it’s crucial to innovate as well. This card, while simple, utilizes the bank’s logo in a die cut format with a beautiful color scheme.
Some people don’t want a flashy credit card, preferring something understated that exudes a sense of class. These four examples will definitely top the cake for any consumer out there who likes a basic, but elegant, card.
Aspiration’s primary brand focus, sustainability, is embedded in the design of its credit card. The “Zero” on the front stands for zero carbon emissions, and the neobank’s marketing team allows consumers to earn cash back on carbon zero purchases.
Carbon card skins
Since it was first introduced to the gaming world in 1935, Monopoly has been played by over one billion people and there have been over 300 different adaptations of the family classic. Why not design a credit card that taps into people’s childhood (and adult) memories of this iconic game? Carbon did just that with this Monopoly credit card skin.
Apple set a high bar for payment card design when the global technology company rolled out its titanium Apple Card in 2019. The elegant design of the physical card complements the simple functionality of the digital Apple Card, housed in the Apple Pay mobile wallet.
( Read More: Is Apple’s New Credit Card The Next Big Thing in Banking? )
Mastercard came out with its own take on a card designed for the LGBTQ market with a polished black “True Name” credit card that encourages cardholders to use the name they feel best represents them.
There are some credit and debit cards that didn’t make it into other categories, but are still outstanding designs. Here is a selection of unique card designs ranging from serious to playful.
One United Bank
The One United Bank Greenwood credit card shown here is one of several designs depicting Black history in the United States. This particular one shows Black Wall Street, which is what the Greenwood district of Tulsa, Okla., was called before it was destroyed in the 1921 race massacre.
Everyone loves a good chocolate bar. This credit card by EPOS is only designed for a select few (specifically international residents living in Japan), but it sure wins a place at the top of the visually unique credit cards, given just how realistic it looks.
Slovakian bank sample
Here is another win for the Behance artist network. While banks in Slovakia generally have a very plain strategy for their debit or credit cards, graphic designer Jan Baca designed his take on what the country’s banking industry should be doing. He introduced his line of comic designs, which certainly stand out from the rest.
Last, but certainly not least, DBS Bank features a stylized depiction of Singapore’s futuristic skyline on its UnionPay Platinum Debit Card. While the design elements of the card are very simple, the overall effect embodies a Disney-like feeling that cardholders should enjoy.