Imagine the satisfying clink of a metal card going down at a restaurant as you go to pay the bill. Wouldn’t you look like such a well-heeled person ‘bossing life’? No bubblegum coloured plastic for you – just pure, heavy metal.
Metallica as opposed to S Club 7 if you want a music analogy to go alongside it.
Then imagine everyone in your party doing the same as you split the bill at a high street chain restaurant. Your chorus of metal clanks might be met with a cacophony of sniggers from other diners.
Heavy metal: Out has gone bubblegum coloured cards and in has come pure metal. Pictured, James Hetfield of Metallica
That may seem a little over the top, but metal debit cards have become a big talking point in modern day banking and opinion is polarised.
Trendy digital banks N26 and Revolut offer metal cards for a premium. Apple has launched a metal card in the US. Meanwhile, fintech stalwart Monzo is preparing to release its own metal card in the coming months.
The question is, why? And just how practical would a metal bank card be when it comes to everyday spending.
For anyone familiar with the brilliant Netflix documentary, Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, the concept is nothing new.
Fyre Festival – for those who don’t know – was an ill-fated, mega exclusive festival on a private island that turned out to be a huge flop.
But before that, the man behind it, Billy McFarland, had launched a metal credit card which came with a social club, called Magnesis, for those who wanted to look like high rollers.
It required $250 a year but included ‘benefits’ such as offers for reduced price concert tickets – as well as the sexy hunk of metal burning in your wallet.
In reality, all it did was dress up an everyday bank account, transfer the data from the magnetic strip of the old card onto its blank metal card. It made people feel uber cool when using it.
But it appears the Netflix generation who have watched this documentary have been turned on by metal, rather than being deterred.
In fact, since that documentary aired in January 2019, demand for metal appears to have grown substantially. Google Trends data shows it recently peaked in Britain: people are interested.
Brightly coloured plastic is out, it seems – heavy metal is in.
Peaked: Google Trends data for the last two years show a huge uptick in people searching for ‘metal bank card’ in 2019
N26 charges £14.90 a month for its stainless steel Mastercard. This includes travel insurance and free cash withdrawals around the world.
If you lose it or it’s stolen and need a replacement? N26 charge €45 for standard shipping and €65 for express – so nearly £60 if you need it quickly.
Revolut charges £120 a year for its version which looks nearly identical to N26. This comes with a concierge service and one per cent cashback.
The concierge service sounds a little Magnesis: it offers ‘assistance for all your hotel reservations, flight bookings, exclusive events.’
If you lose your card or it is stolen, it provides one replacement a year for free. It charges £40 otherwise.
Meanwhile, Monzo – who set customers’ pulses racing with a ‘leaked’ photo of its metal concept – has ditched plans to charge £90 upfront for the privilege of going metal.
It is expected to charge £7.50 per month instead, which is the same thing, just spread out.
Metal madness: Both N26 and Revolut offer similar looking Mastercard debit cards with their current accounts
What is behind the trend? Well, a new generation of bank customers will see it as a status symbol. Something that makes them stand out from the crowd.
And in narcissistic 2019, where social media is king, they can show off their lump of metal like diamonds, or a designer handbag, to their followers.
These metal bank cards have eliminated the long number from the front – with names instead lasered on, meaning sharing selfies of the cards is now a possibility for influencers and the like without being a security risk.
Meanwhile, plastic is bad for the environment – it’s a taboo for us millennials at the moment.
It is worth pointing out here however that for debit cards PVCA is used – it is incredibly robust and cards can be used for years without replacement. It is the perfect material for its purpose.
There are some concerns in the industry about metal cards getting stuck in cash machines – but the concern is likely to be small, given the target demographic is unlikely to be someone who uses a hole in the wall to get cash and spend it.
They are expensive to make compared to plastic cards – hence the premium and potential high replacement cost – while turning them contactless also requires more work, and in turn, more money.
It is unlikely in Britain that users will want one that isn’t tap-and-go enabled.
My opinion is this is a fad that will die out pretty quickly. Cards will get scratched and not look so beautiful on social media sites such as Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. The cost to replace them will become a hindrance.
They will just become something to occasionally wave about in a nightclub for novelty value.
But, life is all about choice. If you want to pay for the privilege of having a metal bank card, that’s your prerogative. As Metallica sing: Nothing Else Matters.