The Only Metric That Matters - Challenger Banks' Aesthetic Approach to Plastic

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It’s been almost 70 years since the first credit card was forged in the fires of Frank McNamara’s Diners’ Club.

Into the mould, Frank tossed in inspiration, perspiration and a desire to have now and pay later in various measures. Out of the fire, he pulled the future.

But the future didn’t look exactly like the present. The future was made of cardboard rather than plastic. That’s because this future is actually the past.

The real future is made of plastic. Plastic has become so popular in the real future that humans have begun eating it.

In the real future almost all credit cards are made of plastic. You can find scores of articles and lists and marketplaces comparing annual fees, APR and other spurious metrics. Alas, the folly of man.

The only metric that matters is aesthetic. Any millennial you see haughtily waving a bright orange debit card at a cashier will tell you that.

Challenger banks get this. Like the teacher who would let you get away with swearing in school, challenger banks are the cool cats of an uncool grown up world.

It goes without saying that a cool cat has a cool card. Here they are, in no particular order.



Combining the sheen of a tropical bird with the security of a trusted financial institution, a Monzo card holds your hand as you enter the world of fintech, while convincing everyone that you're part of the metropolitan elite.

Starling Bank

A bright teal, unblemished by the crude curves of embossed digits, Starling’s card is as easy on the eye as it is smooth to the touch. The Starling card is no tart, and tucks its digits away on the underside of the card, keeping you guessing and titillating you all the more for it.

Tandem Bank

Serving you up a variety of dishes, Tandem Bank offers its customers a choice of four brightly coloured shards of plastic, all adorned with geometric shapes. The colour you can choose; the geometric shapes you’re stuck with. No bad thing – everybody loves a satisfying angle.


The only dual colour card on the roster, Revolut are appealing to two types of people with their card. That is, those who like the colour blue, and those who prefer a pinky-purple colour – not dividing but uniting the two factions. That’s inclusivity for you.


In comparison to Starling Bank’s understated approach to plastic payment, N26’s current account card has a lot going on. Multiple copper looking rectangles, a black strip and an unashamed display of digits would make the minimalist purist wince. But there are lots of straight lines, and this is going to appeal to the line gauge demographic, that is vastly underserved by both the minimalists and tone faders.

We live in the 21st century, with 21st century tastes.

Curves aren’t cool - except for the safety curves of the rounded corners of the card. As always with the financial industry, safety is absolutely paramount. You wouldn’t want young children weaponising their parents’ payment cards. That would be a bad introduction to banking.

The challenger bank, in their infinite wisdom, has determined our tastes are geometry and simplicity.

Mathematics and minimalism are king when it comes to payment card design.


Register for FinTech Connect on 3–4 December at ExCeL, London.

View the FinTech Connect 2019 website to find out more