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.

16 comments

  • Gordon Davidescu

    The only issue I have with flat cards is that I have noticed that numbers sometimes wear off — and that’s no good if you’re on the phone with the pizza place and they need you to read the numbers to them!

    • On the original Chase Sapphire Preferred card, the numbers were etched into the metal, so they would alway remain, but you still couldn’t “rub” on them to get the numbers to pull.

      As I mentioned in the article, the plastic coating Discover puts on their “It” card protects the printed numbers.

  • they look very swish ………….have to say flat cards have a certain aesthetic appeal.

    • Swish is the word! SMILE!

      I have never liked the fully raised account numbers. They make the cards uneven in your pocket and they don’t stack properly, either.

      • I hate having to peer at the numbers in bad light when they have rubbed off – guess Portugal will get them in ten years time !

        • The flat number credit cards I’ve seen have solved that missing numbers problem. They either lock down the number behind secondary, clear, plastic, or they etch the numbers into the card so they cannot be lost even in dire scratching.

          That said, I have seen raised number cards with the numbers flatted because of too many old-fashioned carbon runs!

  • @ David – I could not believe my eyes when I saw them in loads of places over here – not seen a carbon run for years !

    • I can’t remember seeing those old carbons in use around here for at least 20 years. I have had delivery people want to “rub” my card numbers when paying online with a credit card. I’ve never understood that and I usually refuse because they’ve already been paid and I don’t want to waste time with their paranoia.

  • think you are wise to refuse to have your card rubbed – the carbon rubs are still the main cause of fraud – especially in Europe.

    • Yikes! That makes sense.

      What never made sense is that I pay them online. They show up with the delivery. I “sign” the receipt in person. My account number is right there on the receipt. They want to “see” the card. Ok. When they want to then take the card and rub it — that’s where everything stops. I tell them to have their manager call me and I’ll tell him why they cannot rub my card. The experience often ends with me closing the door in their face. There’s no other way to end the conversation because they will argue for hours about the rub. I never get a manager call.

  • Emily Windram

    Now Chase has got it right! Like you, I appreciate saving space in my wallet. It always feels awkward if I have my wallet in my pocket and I feel it jutting out because of all the stuff in it. I also have the paranoid tendency to check and re-check if it’s closed properly!

    • It was fascinating to watch how Chase fixed their metal card. When it first appeared, people went wild for it. It was an instant hit. Then people started using it and the card would scratch and the numbers weren’t raised… and the bloom was off the Sapphire!

      They diligently fixed it with lots of little modifications until they made it the perfect card.

  • Lillian Boyington

    David, I’ve seen you review numerous cards, services, and the respective banks. All this begs the question: “Just how many cards do you have?” No, I don’t expect an answer, much less a public one, but I’ve been impressed with the details you share and how many times you’ve done it! :)

    I’m a Discover Card holder. What is the Discover It? What’s the selling point?
    I’m disappointed I haven’t been canvassed (as a card holder).

    • Hi Lillian!

      You ask excellent questions as always. SMILE! I really don’t have a lot of cards. They’re all secure and safe even though I mention a few details online. If you visit online forums like ThePointsGuy.com or NerdWallet.com or BoardingArea.com or FatWallet.com or FlyerTalk.com you’ll see a lot of people talking extremely specifically about their cards and deals and how to get them. Excellent insight and advice all around. “Gardening” has a whole new meaning for me now! SMILE!

      Here’s the info on the Discover It card — I think that’s just what they’re calling their card now:

      https://www.creditkarma.com/creditcard/CCDiscover1301

      If you want to upgrade your card, call Discover and ask them for an upgrade to “It” if it will suit you. If you have promotions turned off on your account you won’t get special upgrade or reward deals sent your way.

      • Lillian Boyington

        I do have promotions turned off, else I’d get 13 emails a day that I don’t have time to read, but that doesn’t stop the mailings! My PO Box is chock full things THEY think I need.

        I’m particularly happy with my current Discover account because of the 5% cash back promos they run every two months. Sometimes it’s general shopping (YAY ME!), or gas stations, or online only, and of course the department stores in November and December. PLUS I get to redeem my cash back at Amazon.com. Can things get any better????

        I’ll go trolling on the above sites. That looks like fun!

        • I had promotions turned off on my Capital One account and haven’t had a credit line increase in six years. I was missing all their upgrade and reward offers because I refused to let them contact me. I have rectified that with them, but I lost several opportunities to improve my lot by preferring my quiet over their promotional noise. SMILE!

          I like Discover a lot. When I first had one many years ago, it wasn’t accepted many places. Now it’s everywhere with cross-deals with PayPal and MasterCard and their purchase of Diner’s Club. I like the cash back and special deals you mention. I enjoy their customer service. Discover can be a hard card to get. It’s a lot more prestigious than some people think! I would call them though, just to make sure you’re getting all the goodies and they haven’t left anything out on your account. You can’t get a “yes” if you don’t ask!

          For the forums… I’d start with ThePointsGuy.com — he’s really specific in his advice and his forum members are smart and capable in sharing their experience. You will enjoy the conversations.

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