CardsFTW #109: More Digital Wallets

Plus, American Express Crushes It, Capital Cash, and More

More Digital Wallets

Image of a smartphone displaying a completed transaction screen, with multiple credit cards stacked above the phone. The credit cards include a black Curve card, a VISA card, and several others in various colors, representing the integration of multiple cards into one digital wallet.
One wallet to rule them all.

I recently waxed nostalgic about Wallaby in CardsFTW #107. Hot on the heels of the announcement of the Visa Flexible Credential, UK-based Wallaby-esque digital wallet Curve announced that it is building a native wallet for Apple iPhones.

Since the introduction of the Near-Field Communication (NFC) chip in the iPhone and the advent of Apple Wallet, Apple has kept access to the wallet function limited to its own proprietary system. Apple could have allowed access to this, or, better yet, as I once may have pitched to these folks before Apple Pay came out, an API (maybe Wallaby’s?) could be connected to Apple Pay to make smart payment choices. (I had the sense from the meeting that many high-earning Silicon Valley types at the time used a debit card, an Amex Platinum, and nothing else, leaving little understanding of the multiple-card problem).

Anyway, in January, Apple moved to enable rival wallets to use the iPhone's NFC chip (thanks to an extensive European Commission investigation). Curve has announced its intention to use this capability to enable users to tap their iPhone and pull up Curve’s wallet instead of Apple’s. The Times covered these plans last week.

Curve has shown great success in the UK, with over four million customers and a total transaction volume of £3.2 billion in 2022. Curve isn’t quite what I had imagined for Wallaby—the app does not steer on rewards (which are less competitive in the UK) but does provide a host of very cool features, such as the ability to charge the card on a prior transaction, a built-in credit line, and features like smart rules based on merchants or “Anti-Embarrassment Mode” that waterfalls through cards to get an approval.

Curve attempted a US launch, but networks thwarted it by limiting what cards can be used in the wallet (ahem, Visa, American Express). Without the ability to put Visa or Amex cards in your wallet in the U.S., the product just isn’t that useful. Further, what consumers want is automated steering based on rewards and fees. Banks and networks do not want this. Such is the impasse. In the EU, competition regulations require that the networks allow Curve to do its magic, but we do not have the same legal requirements here.

A digital wallet with intelligence is quite possible, if the phone manufacturers and operating systems would allow it. One can dream.

American Express Goes to Z

Older readers will remember the hand-wringing in the business about whether millennials would use credit cards. Then, there was new hand-wringing about the same, but with the newest generation, Gen Z. Don’t worry. As we’ve seen time and time again, as younger consumers age and gain income, so do they gain a love for credit cards and rewards.

The Wall Street Journal reports that American Express has found that young spenders love perks. More than 75% of new accounts acquired in 2023 in the U.S. for Amex Gold or Platinum cards were Gen Z or Millenial. That’s a lot of very expensive cards. (✋ Platinum carrying Millenial here). Not only are younger consumers driving card adoption, but the popularity of cards is growing. Transunion reported that 84% of Gen Z consumers aged 22 to 24 have at least one credit card, a figure that was 61% for millennials a decade ago.

Why did the behavior shift? Consumers today want to be extra-savvy. They read online, watch TikTok recommendations, and aim to be smart consumers. While a $695 annual fee Amex sounds quite high, smart consumers do the math to figure out that they can come out ahead. The card companies continue to lean into perks, access, and events. These status-driven experiential capabilities are exactly what many young consumers desire. Winning programs will continue to focus on experiences that speak to their target demographic.

Capital One Cash

Capital One, known for its credit cards and as a major national online checking account provider, announced the ability to deposit cash into its cards at any CVS or Walgreens nationwide. Cash deposit acceptance has long been one of the largest challenges for digital-only banks or those with limited retail footprints. Green Dot pioneered cash-to-card digital acceptance across tens of thousands of locations in the early 2000s. Many neobanks still accept cash this way via partnerships with Green Dot or Mastercard rePower (which is a layer on Green Dot).

Typically, adding cash at retail comes with a fee of $2-4 per load, 50% or more of which goes to the retailer. Capital One enables free cash loading via its app, with a $999 daily limit and no more than 5 monthly transactions. To deposit cash, cardholders start the process in the app, with a limited-time barcode appearing in the app, which the cashier at CVS or Walgreens scans to enable the load. According to the company, money is available in minutes.

The experience looks very easy and is something I’ll have to test out soon. Many other retailers and neobanks have less friendly loading processes involving card swipes, cardboard chits with codes, and online redemptions. While the various methods enable more places to load, Capital One’s limited partners have a vast footprint and enable easy and safe cash loading. It’s a great move.


CardsFTW, released weekly on Wednesdays, offers insights and analysis on new credit and debit card industry products for consumers and providers. CardsFTW is authored and published by Matthew Goldman and the team at Totavi, a boutique consulting firm specializing in fintech product management & marketing. We bring real operational experience that varies from the earliest days of a startup to high-growth phases and public company leadership. Visit to learn more.

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