Credit cards are complex financial products that vary tremendously from card to card. Yet the vast majority of the cards themselves are made from an identical piece of plastic. In an effort to distinguish its products, a select group of card issuers offer cards that are physically different than the rest. But do these properties matter? Let’s take a look at some of the cards that are physically different.
Chase Sapphire Preferred
This is one of the most popular reward credit cards on the market that is not made of just plain plastic. The Sapphire Preferred is actually a sandwich of plastic and metal that has an entirely different weight and feel to it than a standard credit card. In fact, cashiers immediately notice this difference and it can be the subject of much commentary whenever it is used. Yet at the same time, the Sapphire Preferred does not have raised numbers on the front of the card. Instead, the numbers are printed on the back. This can occasionally cause some confusion and possibly incompatibility with the old style carbon copy receipts. Fortunately, most merchants will simply hand write the card number rather than decline the card.
Barclay’s Bank issues the Visa Black card as a premium product with a limited membership. To further enhance this quality it describes its card as “not just another piece of plastic. Made with carbon, it is the ultimate buying tool.” Since carbon fiber is and expensive material used in race cars and sporting equipment, owners may at least have the sensation of using a superior product.
American Express Centurion
While American Express does not release many details regarding its super-premium card, it is rumored to be constructed of a titanium alloy. If true, it would have an incredibly solid yet lightweight feel to it.
Cards with EMV Smart Chips
Chase and other card issuers have finally begun to issue travel and airline reward credit cards with embedded smart chips that can be used at automated kiosks in Europe. These chips are visible as a gold colored square approximately one centimeter across. Thankfully, this is one physical distinction that has practical implications. It is not uncommon to see American cardholders struggling to use their incompatible cards at train stations in Europe. With one of these cards in hand, travelers will finally be able to make purchases at automated locations without having to find an attendant.
Although some cards look and feel different than others, the effect is almost always cosmetic. Selecting a credit card with the right features and benefits will always be more important than any physical property.