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It's time for issuers to stop with the metal credit cards

Aug. 02, 2021
7 min read
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When I was approved for my first-ever credit card — a Chicago Cubs Mastercard issued by MBNA (since taken over by Bank of America) — I was thrilled at the prospect of the card arriving in the mail. It represented my official launch into adulthood, having previously only been an authorized user on my parents' cards.

Today, I dread the arrival of a new credit card.

Don't get me wrong — I love a good rewards card (and I have just a few of them). But it's the physical substance of the new card that always worries me.

Ever since the much-ballyhooed launch of the Chase Sapphire Reserve in 2016 — when Chase temporarily ran out of metal due to the popularity — card issuers have decided that it's not just the earning rates, travel rewards and fancy perks that'll attract customers. A credit card should (apparently) be a statement piece, a la Ryan Bingham's frequent-flyer card in the movie "Up in the Air."

And what better way to make a statement than surprising unsuspecting, 20-year-old coffee baristas with a metal card that slips out of their hands and makes a notable "clang" on the counter for all the world to hear?

Actually, that's a terrible impression to make. Heavy metal cards had their moment, but it's time for the "Crazy Train" to leave the station and for issuers to let the obnoxiousness of this trend "Fade to Black" in a "Symphony of Destruction" — for a number of reasons.

Some ticket machines won't accept metal cards. (Photo by Michael Gottschalk/Photothek via Getty Images)

They aren't universally accepted

For starters, metal cards can be a nightmare to actually use. Have you ever encountered an older credit card reader that won't accept your snazzy metal card? It's not too hard to find an automatic parking machine that specifically says "no metal cards" on it, and in some cases, the card physically won't fit into the slot.

One of the most important tenets of issuing a credit card is that the bank wants you to actually use it. Those interchange fees are only incurred when a card is swiped. So why make them out of metal and prevent a customer from using it?

Not only that ... is there a reason why issuers are so quick to make these cards out of metal yet can't enable chip-and-PIN capabilities? You know, the authentication method used by most countries around the world? This is yet another barrier to actually using the card when traveling abroad.

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But hey, at least you can get a comment like, "Wow, this card is heavy!" when the cashier hands back your card without being able to actually use it.

They can set off metal detectors

I love my Global Entry membership, and even when I'm not leaving the country due to a global pandemic, I get a ton of use out of TSA PreCheck — which is automatically included.

Except, that is, when my wallet sets off the metal detector at the airport, thanks to — you guessed it! — my metal credit cards.

The first time I passed through a metal detector after getting the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card (no longer open to new applicants but still available as a product-change option), I couldn't believe when it beeped. At first, I assumed I had been randomly selected for extra screening, but then the agent pointed to my wallet. I was on the verge of protesting when it hit me — that heavy new card did it!

Sure enough, the wallet came out and the beep disappeared.

Now, given the array of problems facing our world right now, I fully recognize the absurdity of complaining about taking my wallet out of my pocket at security. But nevertheless, it's one more thing to remember to do, and one more item that could get left behind after screening.

Related: Global Entry vs. TSA PreCheck: Which is better?

You have to mail them back to dispose of them

I have an automatic shredder in my office, and it's incredibly useful for getting rid of old checks, personal documents I no longer need and credit cards.

Or at least, it used to be good for shredding credit cards. But not anymore!

I recently received a newly-reissued Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®, and included in the envelope was the following message:

"Your new card contains metal, do not shred. Please contact the number on the back of your card for assistance disposing of your card."

So let me get this straight ... a process that used to take me literally two seconds (dropping the plastic card into the credit card slot on my shredder) now requires me to make a phone call and talk to someone about getting rid of the card? All because it's made of metal?

No thank you.

Many TPG readers likely have multiple metal cards these days. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

They're not special anymore

But one of the most important reasons why issuers should get rid of these cards is simple. They are no longer special. When one issuer did it on a single card, it was cool. When another one went metal, it was still a nice

Now, metal cards are everywhere. Heck, even my new Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card — one that has just a $95 annual fee — has a metallic glint to it.

Will my no-annual-fee Cubs Mastercard be next? I mean, given the team's brutally mediocre performance thus far in 2021, I guess anything's worth a shot. But in all seriousness, why are we still doing metal cards when they've lost any sort of uniqueness factor?

Which reminds me of the common refrain on airline status: "If everyone's elite, no one's elite."

No metal cardholder is "elite" anymore — they're just one of the crowd.

Bottom line

Heavy metal cards are not new, but — to borrow a quote from the inimitable Ozzy Osbourne — the proliferation of these cards is "going off the rails on a crazy train." Not only can they be difficult to use and a pain to dispose of — they're also no longer special.

It's like that shiny new toy that your kid (or niece or nephew) gets during the holidays. Sure, it's all fun for the first several weeks, and maybe you'll get a couple of good years out of it. But then the novelty wears off, and you're left with a play kitchen taking up space in your actual kitchen — and no one is happy.

Much like I feel after a vacation of eating and drinking too much, these cards need a cleanse — a return to the good old days of plastic.

Oh, and they can take bulk toiletries along with them.

Featured image by Getty Images/Westend61
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
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Rewards Rate

5XGet 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com
1.5XEarn 1.5X points on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year
1X1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Intro Offer
    The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

    Earn 150,000 points
    120,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $695
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Good, Excellent

Why We Chose It

It's hard to find a card that competes with the mile-long list of benefits that come with the Amex Business Platinum. While it's certainly not the card for the average consumer, a business owner with tons of expenses -- especially related to travel -- will find this card incredibly valuable. This card is similar to the consumer version that Amex offers, but with more business-oriented perks around statement credits and earning rates that are a better fit for business owners.

Pros

  • An up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four to five years
  • Up to $400 annual credit for eligible U.S. Dell purchases (enrollment required)
  • Gold status at Marriott and Hilton hotels (enrollment required)
  • Access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program and Hotel Collection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • International Airline Program and Cruise Privileges Program

Cons

  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for checked baggage fees, lounge day passes, and more at one selected airline.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at more than 50 U.S. airports and stadiums.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more lounge location options than any other credit card on the market as of 9/2021.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.