The financial card market is brimming with banks and fintechs offering perks to lure potential cardholders. And if this ‘best of’ list is any indication, I’d say it’s clear this trend will continue. But taking a closer look at these top payment cards, there’s another interesting trend building to a crescendo that’s not often talked about – metal payment cards. ABI Research reports that metal card shipments are expected to hit upwards of 95 Million cards in 2024, with North America continuing to lead the way and Asia expected to have the fastest growth.

Metal Payment Card Shipments by Region Chart

So, what’s the key driver of this growing interest in payment cards made of metal?

Increased competition and changing consumer preferences drives new thinking

Twenty years ago things were different. Well-established, traditional financial institutions, much like heavy metal bands, started to see a shift in the market that threatened their leadership position. Cardholder preferences began to change and there was an increase in competition – including emerging mobile payment solutions, innovative card options, and the emergence of fintechs. But unlike our favorite music bands of old, financial institutions significantly shifted strategy and are always on the lookout for new ways to differentiate their brands to draw in new cardholders and build loyalty. Enter metal payment cards.

At first, metal payment card programs were developed for the elite and affluent, with the promise of exclusivity and luxury, something only a small few could afford to obtain. Yet, today these cards are positioned as a brand differentiator and are marketed to a broader audience interested in the sleek design and the perceived symbol of status they bring. Lyle Daly from the Ascent wrote in 2019 that “The reason behind this trend is entirely the fact that people see metal credit cards as more luxurious. There’s no difference in functionality between a metal card and a plastic card. Both can make purchases just the same.” Financial Institutions are taking advantage of the fact that people like to display and show off who they are in visible ways such as our style, vehicles, education and even what we use to pay for our dinner.

In a world of social media and quick word-of-mouth, a card that gets people talking is well worth the higher cost of production metal cards require from the financial institutions. Even something trivial like the sound a metal card makes when placed on a table can be a conversation starter and attention grabber. And as we all know, any attention drives brand awareness and the potential for new cardholders.

These metal payment cards do, however, have more specific requirements for personalization, but increasing flat card personalization options are the ideal complement to this card trend. Technologies such a UV-cured Durable Graphics or Drop on Demand printing support options like text, images, icons, colors and metallics, offering extreme differentiation and branding opportunities that support the financial institution’s goal to rise above in a crowded market.

Learn more about metal card trends. Watch a short video