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The Alternative Card Movement

January 29, 2018

The Alternative Card Movement

There was once a time where we paid for everything with cash

...or, if the purchase was big enough, we cut a check. In the years since, it’s become quite clear that the dominant tool for payment transactions is now the debit card: like a credit card in appearance, but using the funds you already have saved away in your regular, old school bank account. Simple, right?

Well, the future’s starting to get a bit more complex, though not in a bad way. While we’re not yet at the point where we can make payments across the room with a little chip in our brains, there’s a new breed of cards in town, and it’s making waves.

The market domination of the big, old-fashioned banks, doing things in old-fashioned ways, is moving aside, as new forms of “banks,” and thus new types of cards, are entering the market with a bang. These cards might look and feel much like the debit cards you’re already used to, but in function, they’re a whole other ballgame.

Venmo Card

If you’re not already using the Venmo app, well, you’re missing out. Seriously, aren’t you tired of asking waiters to split the check every time you go to eat, or negotiating cash with your friends? Venmo makes this standard annoyance into a problem of the past. It does the check splitting for you, thus saving your waiter (as well as family and friends) from a headache they won’t miss.

However, in 2017, Venmo also entered the realm of alternative cards. Though the card has been used by Venmo employees since June of that year, it began being beta tested with Venmo users a few months later. As a tongue-in-cheek joke, the card’s front displayed an image of pizza dough: I.E., it wasn’t quite a pizza yet, but the ovens were getting fired up.

How does it work? The Venmo card draws funds right from your Venmo account. Basically, it just means you wouldn’t have to pull out the app anymore: just swipe (as long as you keep your account loaded with the necessary funds).

Square Cash Card

For small business owners, the Square Credit Card Reader was a revelation. Simple, easy to use, and capable of plugging right into your phone or tablet, the Square Reader has transformed the coffee shops of America, and definitely made it way easier to shop in a craft fair. However, Square is now stepping it up a notch, by introducing their own alternative card into the mix: the Square Cash Card.

Once again, same basic idea: the Square Cash Card withdraws funds right from your Square account, instead of your bank. What’s especially neat about Square’s take, though, is that they allow you to customize the card with your own images, symbols, drawings, and so on. While the product hasn’t officially hit the masses yet, we can already imagine some of the crazy drawings that will be appearing on these cards in the future. Either way, it’s sure to look nice tucked inside your Ridge.

Bitpay Card

C’mon, you must have known this one was coming from a mile away. Bitcoin, and its now-famous blockchain technology, is the newest media darling. These days, you can’t go more than a day without someone mentioning this surreal cryptocurrency, which has made it a regular occurrence that your parents keep asking how it works (or if they should invest). And guess what: there’s even card. The Visa Bitpay Card, to be precise.

How does it work? Well, basically, if you’re a Bitcoin user, then you have a Bitcoin “wallet”—no, not a physical wallet like the Ridge, but an app. Using your Bitcoin wallet, you can then load Bitcoin onto the card—which is a physical item—and use that card to make purchases. You can also have your employers direct deposit your paycheck onto the card, meaning that, yes, your job would be paying you in Bitcoin.

So basically, the Bitpay card takes the whole idea of a regular bank account out of the equation, with your only necessary account being with Bitcoin.