Give some credit to a card’s design

As financial service providers fight over which of them offers the lowest interest rates, research flags up another feature that shouldn’t be overlooked – credit card design

Design is not the first thing that springs to mind when you think of financial services, but as companies fight to stand out from the crowd, consumers may find their credit cards becoming increasingly stylish.

This is not a new idea. About 20 years ago, NatWest flirted with this concept when it introduced a wildlife-themed cheque book. The cheque book did not make writing a cheque easier, it did not mean that the money cleared more quickly and it added nothing to the primary function of the cheque book. It just looked different.

However, the cheque book has now largely been replaced by cards, and some financial service providers are already looking at ways of making them more interesting. For instance, upmarket private bank Coutts & Co recently worked with fashion designer Ozwald Boateng to create its Purple Credit Card. But as it remains to be seen whether this trend is related to consumer demand, quantitative research company QuickWise conducted a survey to find out.

Perhaps unsurprisingly when choosing a new card, consumers look for financial benefits ahead of everything else. When asked what the most important factors were, annual percentage rate (APR) came top, with 83 per cent of respondents citing it; cashback was mentioned by 79 per cent and balance transfer was cited by 71 per cent of those surveyed. However, 23 per cent of the respondents did say design is important. It came ahead of status, which was mentioned by 21 per cent, and a free gift, which was cited by just 16 per cent.

When it comes to the design of credit card, the picture/shape and the colour are the two key elements. QuickWise asked consumers how important each element was to them and found that 38 per cent of respondents are indifferent to the design of their card. But of those who did have a preference, 12 per cent wanted a solid colour, 11 per cent wanted a picture of an animal, ten per cent wanted a picture of themselves or a loved one, eight per cent wanted a different shape and seven per cent wanted a picture of their favourite football team.

QuickWise also asked the respondents which was their preferred card to use on a special occasion and which was the card they felt would most impress others. Both questions brought up the same three cards. The American Express card was cited by 53 per cent of respondents as the most impressive and would be used by 25 per cent on a special occasion. The Mint card was second in the “most impressive” category with 14 per cent of respondents mentioning it, but it came third for special occasions with just 12 per cent. Finally, Barclaycard is the third most impressive card with ten per cent of respondents mentioning it, but it came second for special occasions with 12 per cent.

While the position of established names such as American Express and Barclaycard is predictable, the popularity of the Mint card, a relative newcomer, may come as a surprise. Though the card boasts comparable features to its competitors in terms of APR, cashback and balance transfer, QuickWise’s research suggests that the design of the card, which has a curved bottom right-hand side rather than a sharp corner, may be an important factor in its popularity. Like the NatWest cheque book, nothing is added to the primary feature of the card, it simply looks different.

Though the survey found that consumers claim to be indifferent to design, the popularity of the Mint card is driven by 18- to 30-year-olds, which suggests that older consumers are not interested in the design of the card. The research found that 21 per cent of 18- to 30-year-olds believe that a Mint card will impress others and 16 per cent of this age group claim that they would use it on a special occasion.

The Mint card is also the most popular with those who earned up to &£22,000 a year, with 16 per cent saying that it would impress others. This decreases among higher-earning consumers, with just four per cent of those who earn more than &£50,000 a year saying that they would use it to impress friends. The pattern is repeated when it comes to using it on special occasions. This further demonstrates that the design of the card is more important to younger people.

Finally, the QuickWise survey asked respondents their views on how credit cards could be improved through design. The suggestions included being more creative with colour, shape, three-dimensional images, smart material and colour changes. They also suggested that customers should be able to personalise their cards with pictures, colours and possibly different shapes as well.

There is clearly a significant difference in the requirements of different demographic groups. Credit card companies looking for a relatively even mix of younger males and females consumers should consider taking time to develop an innovative design in order to appeal to a significant part of this age group. l

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