A Simple Opportunity That Nearly Every Credit Card is Missing

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When I wrote about the sharia-compliant credit card in the UAE with a built-in compass so that cardmembers would always know what direction to pray, I said that feature seemed a bit much. And then I realized it helped to solve a practical problem that would give a reason for customers to carry it — and keep it top of wallet.

There aren’t very many practical problems that credit cards can solve beyond payments, rewards, and bundled benefits. And the set of problems a credit card can address are limited further by those where it would offer a unique solution that would make a customer’s life easier than any alternative. A compass in a credit card, for someone that might carry a standalone compass, is a solution. What solutions would be bundled into plastic that cannot be duplicated by a smartphone?

Then I was reminded of the 1990 Dana Carvey film, Opportunity Knocks. He’s a con man who has talked his way into a job at a business making bathroom supplies. As a Vice President he’s expected to revolutionize the way they market their products and boosts sales. On the spot he comes up with this:

Credit card companies can put any message they (and their co-brand partners) want on their cards. Because they make ’em.

You’ve got to make your own card if you want it to be cool.

Even good looking cards — and I think several of the ones I carry in my wallet qualify — are missing the opportunity for a marketing message.

Recently a frequent flyer told me they write with a sharpie on each card what to use the product for. That’s helpful to them, it’s especially helpful to their partner.

A credit card could contain its unique selling proposition on the card itself.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card could actually say that it earns 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide on the card itself.

The Citi Prestige Card could say 3X on air and hotel, 2X on restaurants and entertainment.

That forces the card issuer to condense down verbiage like,

    Earn 5 points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services each account anniversary year. Earn 2 points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel each account anniversary year. Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases-with no limit to the amount you can earn.

But that’s also the point — they should take the marketing of their product seriously, and market on the product. That would be doing consumers a service and reminding them to spend.

And why not put on the front of the Platinum Card by American Express “this card gets you into airport lounges” and even say Delta SkyClub access on it and Centurion Lounges as well?

American Express Centurion Lounge Houston

Credit cards shouldn’t just be attractively designed. They should tell you when to use them, or why to use them. The card itself is a lost marketing opportunity, and one that could benefit consumers.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.


  1. Probably card companies want to hedge in case they change the terms or bonus categories later. They don’t want customers complaining if they card literally says they get 2X at restaurants and the company changes categories a few years after the card was issued.

    And all the provisos and leagl-eze that would get left off due to space could cause a legal issue.

  2. It’s not the particular benefits, though, there’s a way to do it — communicating a card’s unique value proposition and encouraging use, utilizing the space in a cardmember’s wallet for a marketing message. I view it as a wasted oppprtunity that pretty much no one does.

  3. But you’re not *supposed* to use the card only for its bonus categories; you’re supposed to use one card for everything and ignore (or better, be unaware of) the lost rewards! 1% back on all other purchases!

  4. Credit card companies don’t want you to use only the “best” benefits. They want you to use the card for all spending. Why highlight a weakness?

  5. Maybe I wasn’t clear enough. There’s a marketing message, you carry their card in your wallet, they should be using it. Not just a product name or brand name. The specifics of the message will vary by issuer and product based on their own interest. But that message could also be one that’s useful to the consumer, that reminds them why they value the product and how to use it effectively.

  6. its not that easy.

    you cant just put anything on a creditcard. everything has to be approved by master and visa.
    so mostly you go with the standard things on the card

  7. Yes, a plastic card of that size can carry many things now a days. They are wasting many oppotunities.

    However, the most impstant things today is to put people in their comfortable social circles so they can conduct more economical activities.

    Let the card enhance the carrier’s social life.

  8. It’s a great idea, but I think the card companies want you to 1x the cards, not earn bonus points, and they don’t love it when you actually use the fringe perks. Ideal user is someone who gets an Amex Plat because it sounds awesome, puts a lot of spend on it without much thought, and then uses the lounge once a year on their big trip to Paris.

  9. The cynic in me thinks this was just another way to get affiliate links out there without looking like the appearance of the blatant #pumppumppump of some other sites (OCaaT) recently…

  10. Most credit cards are ugly already. Please don’t give the companies your idea to make the cards even uglier.

  11. I just wish that they would make the contact numbers larger. I can barely read them due to the small font sizes. And don’t get me started on a couple cards where the number is completely obscured from the card number embossing from the other side.

  12. What Johnny said. The problem is that you are then asking the consumer to hand over an advertisement when he or she pays, which is socially undesirable – it’s like the anti-Centurion card.

  13. Gary, I have a dilemma right now that possibly speaks to this point. I am preparing to rent a car and in deciding what CC (of the several I have gotten after reading your blog, thanks) to put the rental on, I can’t remember which one offers the better insurance on Rental Cars. I have retired and don’t rent weekly any longer or use the employer’s CC anymore.

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