the future of plastic

Payment cards have been a constant presence in people's wallets for decades and card companies are some of the most powerful and influential financial institutions of the day. The appeal of the payment card is easy to understand: it fits in your pocket and your wallet, it provides security and, since it has no intrinsic value, its loss is easily mitigated. 


Debit cards provide financial freedom without the risk of debt and they provide control over payments, while credit cards bring greater rewards. Loyalty programs are still a significant factor for people deciding on a credit card and with ATMs and POS devices on literally almost every corner, having a payment card seems the sensible choice.

Payments in Europe have changed markedly in the past decade. Since 2007, cash payments soared while at the same time debit cards established themselves as the dominant non-cash method. So while cash is still king, cards are not just holding their own in the fight but are also drawing in new customers, especially with elderly switching to cards due to convenience and an increased faith in security.


Card companies are always keeping a weather eye out for cutting edge developments, keeping track of the newest technologies and looking into incorporating them with their popular cards. Innovation in finance is not a young fintech's game - old, established giants, such as American Express, Visa and MasterCard, are making concentrated efforts to not just adapt to other's innovations but also develop new technologies themselves and gain a competitive edge.


Multichannel payments and contactless technology have in recent years been a must-have for a payment service provider, while tech pioneers such as Apple, N26 and Revolut have recently begun combining the old with the new and linking their successful payment apps to their own cards - a move that isn't just providing convenience for existing users but also drawing in new ones, and - most importantly - doing so across all age and gender groups.


Competition in the payment arena is as fierce as ever, with digital-only services having moved in aggressively several years ago and the digital revolution opening up an entire new field of opportunities for banks, fintechs and card companies. 

Marketing has remained the top priority for card companies, who have recently begun expanding their strategy and getting involved with emotional marketing and experiential storytelling. Aiming for a customer's gut feeling is a novel approach for financial institutions but some have been having great success, especially on social media platforms such as Instagram.

But it's not just marketing that card companies are focusing on in order to draw in new customers. Personalization is a key word today: making a cardholder feel unique because they are using your card. A big part of this sense of uniqueness comes from the design of the cards themselves: the material a card is made of - plastic or various types of metal - and the artistic choices made with regards to how the card looks and even what is included on it - logos, signatures or any other identifier data and even allowing customers to put their own artwork on the card - have significantly influenced adoption rates.


Taking all this into account, we can say that, as far as the payment card's future goes, the prognosis looks bright. Even though it's easy to equate the card with the check - due to its age and long-time ubiquity - cards have time and again shown they are more than capable of holding their own in the digital age.

Chip and PIN, contactless tech and incoming biometrics for increased security - features and benefits that cards can still offer their holders while remaining convenient and easy to use are many and still growing and are certain to ensure the payment card keeps its seat at the high table in the years to come.

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