CardsFTW #53: What’s Next For Crypto and Stock Meme Cards?

Plus, Bank of America Extends Relationship Banking Bonuses & Another Wine Card!

Crashing Crypto Cards

Over the past few years, the rise of crypto and its entry into the mainstream led to a corresponding surge in cards with crypto features. Crypto cards come in a few different flavors, such as debit cards that enable you to convert your crypto to fiat money and credit cards that earn crypto rewards.

Crypto debit cards have been on the market since 2015. The first debit card that accessed a crypto wallet was the Shift Visa (issued by my current employer, Apto Payments). I enjoyed one of these during its time on the market—the Shift Card shut down in 2019. At the time, few options remained for users who wanted to connect an existing crypto wallet to the real world.

Shift Visa Debit Card
RIP Shift Card

Since then, there has been a dramatic increase in options. Major exchanges partnered with companies like Apto or worked directly with processors to build crypto debit cards. Examples include Coinbase, Crypto.com, Uphold, FTX, and others. While many hundreds of millions (or perhaps billions) of dollars were transacted in the past few years on crypto debit cards, they remained on the less successful side overall. As the early Apto team learned, people who buy crypto view it more as an investment vehicle than a currency. As a result, the idea of buying a latte with your crypto today for $4 that tomorrow could cost you $8 makes it challenging for users to want to pull out that card and use it.

Many users acquired crypto-backed cards, but usage on average was far below average card usage. The crypto world has been thrashed with its own scandals and fraud. Fewer and fewer exchanges have active debit card programs today, and fewer banking partners are willing to be involved directly with crypto.

Crypto debit cards aren’t going away, and I predict we’ll see new versions that should have more success through learning from past experiments, but the initial land rush is over.

2021 saw the advent of the crypto credit card. BlockFi launched its BlockFi Rewards Visa Card to much fanfare and was reportedly one of the fastest-growing consumer credit card launches in history. In contrast to some of the complexities of attaching a traditional debit card to a crypto ledger, the Blockfi card was a standard credit card. Consumers applied for a line of credit; they spent with the card and paid a bill monthly. The essential crypto tie-in was that rewards for the card (1.5% cashback) came in the form of crypto deposited to your BlockFi account. In this, the card looked like the very successful Fidelity Investments Visa Card, which again was a regular debit card, but the 2% cashback is deposited to your Fidelity account. Other crypto reward credit cards followed BlockFi with offerings from companies, including Gemini and Status Money.

BlockFi Visa Card
It’s Vertical and Horizontal. Depends on your point of view.

However, with the collapse in the crypto market, the BlockFi card is already gone. The BlockFi card was issued by Evolve Bank & Trust through Deserve’s credit card platform. Evolve, with their rights as issuer, closed the card. Cardholders have to pay off their balance but cannot earn further rewards. I’m unclear if Status’s card will continue: it will also be issued by Evolve, although through the Railsr platform instead of Deserve.

Meanwhile, speaking of Deserve and interesting memes, there is now a waitlist for the AMC Entertainment Visa Card (issued by Celtic Bank, which won’t do crypto). We all remember AMC from their crazy stock price journey with Robinhood meme investors running the price up (and down). The company is back on the ropes, movies aren’t what they used to be, and now they have a credit card. It’s hard to predict success for this: Who needs a dedicated credit card for the movies?

AMC Visa Card
Like many recent releases, this card design doesn’t entice me. I don’t know where to start.

Every industry suffers from trend following, and cards are no different. I predict a retrenchment from cards for every brand to unique offerings that offer broad value.

Bonuses with Bank of America

Bank of America has stood out among card issuers for emphasizing relationship bonuses. Customers of the bank with certain deposit levels earn bonuses on their card rewards. For example, all customers with a checking account will earn a 10% rewards bonus on Bank of America branded cards. The bonuses accelerate as that balance goes up to $10,000, $25,000, or even $100,000. At the top level, for wealth management clients at either Bank of America or Merrill Lynch, a 75% bonus is available. With this, a cardholder can earn 2.625% cashback on every purchase with the Bank of America TravelRewards card with no fee. This card is a great deal.

Alaska Airlines Visa® Credit Card
Anita Holiday is a solid entry.

Bank of America has a limited number of co-brand cards with airlines and such compared to competitors such as Citibank or Chase. They are extending relationship benefits to one of those cards: The Alaska Airlines Visa Card. The change is part of a set coming into effect for new and existing cardholders. With a new increased annual fee of $95, the card now includes additional 2x earning categories for gas, transit, cable, and select streaming, some additional airline lounge and boarding privileges, and a 10% bonus if cardholders have an eligible bank account.

It doesn’t appear that the 75% bonus applies to this card, but it is interesting to see the bank extending this bonus across more of its line.

Cards and Bubbles

Long-time readers will know my fascination with wine or spirits based on my previous adventures with the Grand Reserve World Mastercard. Today I learned about the Une Femme Credit Card. First, what is Une Femme? It’s a women-owned, women-focused champagne brand from a women-focused champagne bar. Now they have a co-branded Mastercard. It’s a serious offering: 3x points at Une Femme, 2X points on charitable donations, dining, ride-sharing, and beauty-related qualifying purchases, and 1X everywhere else. There is a $500 signup bonus and a $99 annual fee (waived the first year). The card is issued by Lewis and Clark Bank and is operated by Power, a new credit card as a service platform.

Une Femme Mastercard
That MasterCard logo is suspicious.

I couldn’t make a wine credit card with 450 wine brands work, so I am skeptical that an online woman-focused champagne brand needs its own credit card, but the market will let us know!

CardsFTW

Thanks for reading CardsFTW, an occasional newsletter about debit and credit. It is written and curated by Matthew Goldman, President at Apto Payments. If you enjoy it, please share!

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