Why premium banking is one of the last bastions of physical bank cards

Alyona Shevtsova
4 min readFeb 12, 2021

If only a few represented the premium banking in the 2000s, and they were often the foreign banks, then since the 2010s, the competition in the premium banking market began to intensify. All major players in the banking market have already formed premium services to this date, and each player has taken its own position and acquired a certain market share. The development of the premium segment is becoming an increasingly difficult task due to such a rapid growth of the field and even more affordable and flexible financial instruments. Besides bonuses, additional benefits in shops and airports, the provision of banking, investment, tax and other financial services, players should create a personalized and special service today .

The banks, desiring to emphasize the status of their prime customers, have begun to provide not only unusual use conditions, but also creative ideas for the “appearance” of cards, using design solutions, creating a transparent, mirror or structural surface, etc. The metal cards have returned to us from a long distant past, though they’re no longer copper, but from precious and expensive alloys. The banks also experiment with the size of cards and the placement of the main details.

Physical premium cards

I want to highlight the UAE Bank credit card Dubai First Royale Card among other unusual design solutions for premium cards. The card is covered with gold and enchased with a diamond. The card can be got only by the invitation and is available to the high society of the Emirates. This is an unlimited credit card with constant personal service and privileges available to customers anywhere in the world.

The better known example is the titanium card created by Apple and the American bank Goldman Sachs. AppleCard is designed in minimalism, and there’s no account number and CVV-code on it — the information is stored on the user’s iPhone.

Another example of specialness and materials is the JP Morgan card made from pure palladium.The card holder’s details and account number are engraved on the JP Morgan Palladium Card. The card can be got only by a personal invitation from the bank.

In Ukraine, the metal cards named IRON Bank are offered by Monobank. These are Visa Infinite and MasterCard World Elite cards that go with the modified app version and all the benefits, depending on the payment system. As far as I know, the cards are made in the USA and tested in Mexico.

The transparent plastic cards for its business clients are issued by the German neobank N26. In addition to transparent cards, the bank’s customers can also choose metal one in three colors — in pink, steel and black. The design of the cards is simple enough but very impressive.

Eco solution

Although this blog was originally about the interesting solutions for premium banking, I’ve decided to write also about the product that should be soon released. A billion debit and credit cards are produced globally each year. Although plastic cards seem to be an insignificant part of our everyday lives, these plastic cards have a considerable carbon footprint. The TreeCard fintech startup founders have recently developed a cool solution. They plan to launch the world’s first wooden debit card and to use part of their profits to plant trees. This card isn’t for premium banking. It’s on the contrary for mass use.

The card is made with sustainably sourced cherry wood, and one tree can be used to make up to 300,000 cards. TreeCard startup has received $1 million in funding by Ecosia, a German search engine known for its contribution to similar environmental projects. The company uses its profits to plant trees based on the user’s number of searches and has planted over 112 million trees. The startup plans to plant one tree for every $60 spent from the TreeCard. The card is compatible with online wallets such as Apple Pay and Google Pay. The startup plans to issue a card in 2021 and release an app which allows the user to perform basic digital banking procedures as well as keep a track of the number of trees planted through their spending. An important initiative that can force banks to reconsider their work and impact on nature. And this is still a good idea for the premium programs, because such a design will certainly be special and distinguish the client.

These cases shows us how premium banking and any non-standard initiative make a physical bank card not just a rudiment of the pre- Apple Pay and Google Pay era, but a popular product for customers. The reason is the urgent need for a person not to be just a “consumer”, but a unique client. This urgent need to be noticed on the background of information noise — the relevant client’s request, and this relevance is only growing.



Alyona Shevtsova

CEO of the international payment system LEO, the shareholder of IBOX Bank