Why Are Some Credit Cards Metal? We Reveal The Surprising Truth
Why Are Some Credit Cards Made of Metal?
Credit cards have come a long way since they were first introduced in the early 20th century. Today, you can find credit cards made out of all sorts of materials, including plastic, wood, and, notably, metal.
Personally, my credit card stack is a mix of these different materials and notably, there’s a large difference in the weights between my cards as well.
But why are some credit cards made of metal, and what makes them so appealing to consumers? In this article, we’ll explore the history, appeal, types, and production of metal credit cards.
The History of Metal Credit Cards
Credit cards made out of metal are not a recent development. In fact, metal charge plates and coins were used as a form of credit in the early 20th century. These were replaced by paper charge cards in the 1950s, which eventually evolved into plastic credit cards.
However, it wasn’t until the early 2000s that the first modern metal credit cards were introduced. The American Express Centurion Card, also known as the Black Card, was the first of its kind, and it quickly became a symbol of status and exclusivity.
Today, many other credit card issuers offer their own versions of metal credit cards. Notably, I really enjoy my Chase Sapphire Reserve card, which also comes in metal – it has a great feel and weight to it.
Early Metal Charge Plates and Coins
The first metal charge plates and coins were used by merchants as a way to extend credit to customers without the need for cash. These were typically made out of brass or copper and could be stamped with the name of the merchant or business.
Customers would be issued a metal charge plate or coin in exchange for credit, which they would then be required to return or pay back. This system eventually evolved into paper charge cards, but the use of metal for credit continued within certain industries, such as transportation and government.
The transportation industry was one of the biggest users of metal charge plates. Airlines and other transportation companies would issue metal plates to frequent travelers, allowing them to charge their travel expenses and pay them off at a later date. These metal plates often featured unique designs or logos, making them highly collectible among enthusiasts.
This also was the earliest sign of the future trend towards metal credit cards becoming a status symbol, as frequent travelers could show off their plates as a sign of their elite status.
The Introduction of Modern Metal Credit Cards
In 1999, the American Express Centurion Card was introduced as an ultra-premium credit card made out of titanium. This card was exclusively available to high-net-worth individuals and required a $5,000 initiation fee and a $2,500 annual fee (it’s substantially more now!).
This card quickly became popular among celebrities and the wealthy, and it set the stage for other credit card issuers to introduce their own metal cards. Today, you can find metal credit cards from a variety of issuers, including Chase, Citibank, and Wells Fargo.
One of the reasons for the popularity of metal credit cards is their durability. Unlike plastic cards, metal cards are less likely to crack or break over time, making them a more long-lasting option for consumers.
Of course, we believe the real purpose is that it’s a luxury status symbol to have one of these elite cards. It makes the customer feel important and lets them show off to their friends too.
The Evolution of Metal Card Designs
Over time, the design of metal credit cards has evolved to include unique features and intricate designs. Some cards feature etching, engraving, or laser cutting, while others have added features such as built-in bottle openers or carbon fiber accents.
These designs are often meant to appeal to a specific audience, such as luxury travelers or avid sports fans. Some card issuers even offer the ability to personalize your metal credit card with your own design or logo.
In addition to their unique designs, metal credit cards often come with a host of exclusive benefits, such as access to airport lounges, concierge services, and travel rewards programs. These perks are designed to appeal to high-net-worth individuals and frequent travelers, making metal credit cards a status symbol as well as a practical financial tool.
A more recent trend, in the past couple of years, is card customization shops, which will take all of the information from any credit card and the chip, and put it into a customized metal card for you. This service can thus turn any credit card into a metal credit card for around $150.
The Appeal of Metal Credit Cards
When it comes to credit cards, there are a lot of options available. From basic cards that offer no rewards to high-end cards with exclusive perks, there is something for everyone. However, one type of credit card that has been gaining popularity in recent years is the metal credit card.
Perceived Status and Exclusivity
One of the biggest appeals of metal credit cards is the perception of status and exclusivity that comes with owning one. These cards are often associated with luxury, wealth, and prestige, and they can be a way to signal to others that you are part of an exclusive club.
For high-net-worth individuals and frequent travelers, metal credit cards can be a symbol of their success and status. They can use these cards to gain access to exclusive lounges, experiences, and perks that are not available to the average person.
Furthermore, metal credit cards often have higher credit limits and better rewards programs than their plastic counterparts, making them even more exclusive and desirable.
Durability and Longevity
Metal credit cards are also known for their durability and longevity compared to their plastic counterparts. These cards are less likely to become scratched, cracked, or damaged over time, and they can often be replaced quickly if lost or stolen.
This makes them a popular choice for individuals who want a reliable and long-lasting credit card without having to worry about the wear and tear that comes with frequent use. Additionally, some metal credit cards are made from materials such as titanium or stainless steel, which are known for their strength and durability.
For example, the Apple Card is made out of titanium and weighs in at 15 grams.
Unique Design and Aesthetic
Finally, many people are attracted to metal credit cards simply because of their unique design and aesthetic. These cards often have a sleek, modern look that sets them apart from other types of credit cards.
They can be a way to showcase your personal style and preferences, or simply to make a statement whenever you make a purchase. Some metal credit cards even come with intricate designs or engravings, adding to their appeal as collector’s items.
Overall, the appeal of metal credit cards lies in their combination of exclusivity, durability, and unique design. Whether you are a frequent traveler, a high net worth individual, or simply someone who appreciates the finer things in life, a metal credit card may be the perfect choice for you.
Types of Metal Credit Cards
Premium and Luxury Cards
Many metal credit cards are designed for high net-worth individuals who are willing to pay a premium for exclusive perks and benefits. These cards often come with high annual fees and require a certain level of spending to maintain.
Benefits may include things like travel rewards, airport lounge access, concierge services, and more. These cards are often marketed to frequent travelers and those who value luxury and convenience.
For instance, some premium and luxury metal credit cards even offer exclusive access to private jets and yachts! Cardholders can enjoy the ultimate luxury travel experience with personalized services, gourmet meals, and luxurious amenities. These cards also offer access to some of the most exclusive events and experiences, such as VIP tickets to the Oscars or the Super Bowl.
Travel Rewards Cards
Other metal credit cards are designed specifically for travel rewards. These cards may offer bonus points or miles for purchases in certain categories, such as airfare, hotels, or dining. These are targeted more at your everyday road warriors (such as management consultants like me!).
They may also come with perks like trip cancellation insurance, rental car insurance, and extended warranties. These cards are often a popular choice for frequent travelers who want to maximize their rewards and benefits.
Some travel rewards metal credit cards also offer unique travel experiences, such as guided tours of exotic destinations or private access to famous landmarks. Cardholders can enjoy the ultimate travel experience with personalized services and exclusive perks.
Business Credit Cards
Finally, many metal credit cards are designed for small business owners who want to earn rewards and manage their expenses more efficiently. These cards may come with benefits like cashback, discounts on business purchases, and accounting integrations.
They may also offer higher credit limits and employee spending controls, making them a useful tool for businesses that need to manage their cash flow and expenses effectively. One hilarious example we saw was a small business owner who owned a fleet of small planes for executive transportation. He needed 5 credit cards all linked to the same account, 1 each for each of his pilots, so they could fill up their planes with fuel on a daily basis.
Some business metal credit cards also offer exclusive business perks, such as access to business lounges, networking events, and business coaching services. These cards can help small business owners grow their businesses and achieve their goals.
How Metal Credit Cards Are Made
Materials Used in Metal Card Production
Most metal credit cards are made out of either stainless steel or titanium, although other materials like brass or aluminum may be used for certain designs. These metals are chosen for their durability, corrosion resistance, and visual appeal.
The metal is often polished, brushed, or engraved to create a specific texture or finish, and additional features like carbon fiber or leather may be added for a unique look.
Manufacturing Process and Techniques
The manufacturing process for metal credit cards involves several steps, including cutting, etching, and polishing the metal. Many cards are made using advanced laser cutting and engraving techniques, which allow for precise and intricate designs.
Customization and personalization are also popular features, with some card issuers offering the ability to add a custom design or logo to your card.
Customization and Personalization
Many metal credit cards can be personalized with your own design or logo, making them a popular choice for individuals or businesses who want to showcase their brand or personality.
Customization options may include adding a laser-etched image or wording or choosing a unique card color or texture. These options can help to make your card stand out and reflect your personal style or brand identity.
So, Do You Need a Metal Credit Card?
We like our metal credit cards but have to admit it’s a bit of a gimmick.
Like any other luxury item, it’s really mostly just about status signaling. Sure the materials, design, and durability are better, but is that really critical in deciding what credit card you want to use?
We say, if you want one, go for it, but it really should not be a critical driver of which credit card you choose.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- Various specific card’s websites
Meet the author:
Cody is the founder and owner of Personal Finance Guru. His day job is as a management consultant at one of the Top 3 firms (think Mckinsey, Bain), where he advises Fortune 500 C-suite clients on their most important and pressing business problems. He completed his business education at Harvard Business School.
After seeing the lack of personal finance education for regular people, Cody started the website with the mission to provide everyone access to information that will help them achieve their financial goals.
Cody approaches personal finance from a maximalist perspective, shunning typical advice around simply not buying a cup of coffee instead of more effective methods like investing in yourself to quickly grow your income.
He believes in saving money and investing for the future, but he also knows that you need to enjoy life today. That’s why Cody approaches money with a sense of humor and a positive attitude. He knows that if you’re not having fun while you’re growing your wealth, then what’s the point?
Cody approaches life with the same gusto that he brings to personal finance. He loves to travel and experience new cultures, and he is an avid reader and learner. He also enjoys playing sports (especially tennis) and spending time with his family and friends.