Rise of the Flat Numbers: Chase Sapphire Preferred and Discover It

I appreciate good design and aesthetic challenges to the common core.  One new trend I’ve noticed in credit card design from some of the bigger, more daring, banks is to eschew using raised account numbers on their credit cards.  My new Chase Sapphire Preferred card is quite beautifully designed in shape and substance, but it is a little less daring than the same card that was issued only a year ago.

When the Chase Sapphire Preferred card first appeared, it was a completely flat-number card made entirely of metal.  It was the common man’s version of the black, titanium, American Express Centurion Card.

The problem with the Sapphire Preferred card when it first appeared was that the metal surface was too easily scratched.  Some brand new cards arrived in delivery envelopes already scarred from the setup process.

Another complaint from international travelers was that the Chase Visa Signature card did not have raised numbers, so older credit card businesses — some in faraway places where they’d place carbon paper over the card and rub the numbers with a pencil to process payment — made the card impossible to use in person in non-swipe credit card transactions.

Chase still wanted the prestige of a metal card, so they cleverly modified the look, feel and functionality of their premier credit card by keeping a metal core and placing hardier plastic on the front and back of the card.  The plastic coating allowed Chase to have slightly raised account numbers on the back of the card while keeping the sleek feel of the card in your hand.

This version of the Sapphire Preferred doesn’t scratch, it is hefty, and it just feels right in your hand.  This is now my favorite credit card for the perks and benefits and overall design and it never fails to get a “that’s a heavy card!” comment from cashiers when they hand it back to me.

Discover also has a new “flat number” card, the — “Discover It” — and this card is entirely plastic even though it is designed to look like a metal card.  I enjoy there are no apologies offered for this entirely flat card and there’s even a strong plastic cover on the back that protects the numbers from being etched over or rubbed out.  Discover wants a 100% flat card, and — Discover It — is definitely that card.  I like it a lot.

I appreciate the move to flat number credit cards.  Gift cards have generally always been flat, and when you carry more than one credit card in your pocket, all the raised numbers on the cards tend to increase the size of the cards you’re carrying by a factor of two.  By flatting everything out, you are able to carry the same number of cards using much less space in your pocket.