Pulling a metal credit card out of your wallet was once considered a status symbol. Today, however, more card issuers have added credit card metal options to their card offerings for customers who prefer a sleek — and heavier — plastic alternative.
But beyond being metal instead of plastic, you may wonder what is a metal credit card exactly and are they better? We delve into the similarities and differences between plastic and metal credit cards, as well as how to get a metal credit card if you’re looking to add some heft to your wallet.
What Is a Metal Credit Card?
A metal credit card functions much in the same way as its plastic cousin. You can swipe a metal card at a point-of-sale terminal, or if the card is chip- or RFID-enabled, you can insert or tap it for payment.
Additionally, cardholders who have a metal credit card but prefer to use their digital wallets, can use their digital metal card the same way as other credit cards in their digital wallet. To use a credit card in this manner, simply tap your device toward the card reader to activate the transaction.
A key distinction with metal credit cards, however, is the material that the physical card is made of. They’re typically composed of some type of hard, durable metal.
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A Brief History of Metal Credit Cards
The credit card issuer to spark buzz with its metal credit card was American Express. In 1999, it launched the Centurion Card — colloquially called the Black Card — which was the first metal card of the time.
The innovative, invite-only card was offered to the highest spenders of AmEx’s Platinum Card. Its exclusivity, coveted benefits, and unique credit card metal material set an impressive bar for the luxury credit card market moving forward.
What Are Metal Credit Cards Made Of?
The transition from traditional, lightweight plastic to various metals is why some credit cards are heavy. Specific materials that are used for metal credit cards vary across card issuers, with many companies keeping information about their credit card metal materials under lock and key.
As an example, the metal used for the Apple Card is titanium, while some cards use stainless steel, metal alloys, 24 karat gold, palladium and other metals, as well as hybrid cards that have a metal exterior with a plastic core.
Why Metal Credit Cards Are Popular
Since AmEx launched its metal Centurion Card, metal cards have oozed a sense of luxury and prestige. This premium metal card phenomenon went mainstream when Chase announced its metal Sapphire Reserve credit card in 2016.
The heavier material of metal credit cards has a noticeable in-hand feel that some cardholders prefer. Metal credit cards are also generally associated with elite status. For some, the perk of carrying a card that feels and looks special can be attractive.
Differences Between Metal and Plastic Credit Cards
Although metal credit cards have grown in popularity in the market, traditional credit cards made out of plastic are still commonly available. Below are the main differences to know between a metal versus plastic card:
|Metal Credit Card||Plastic Credit Card|
|Made of various metal materials||Commonly made of PVC plastic|
|Weighs more (10.5 grams and up)||Weighs less (approximately 5 grams)|
|Some have a higher barrier of entry||Can be more accessible to consumers|
|Highly durable||Less durable|
|May need to mail back to the issuer for safe disposal||Can dispose of using commercial-grade tools|
Similarities Between Metal and Plastic Credit Cards
As mentioned earlier, how a credit card works doesn’t vary whether it’s metal or plastic. You can add both metal and plastic cards into a digital wallet for convenience and use them in the same way to make purchases.
Further, both options offer the same bank-level security features you’ve come to expect from a credit card since encryption isn’t dependent on the material of the card. Rather, it’s contained within other features of the card, like the magnetic strip or chip-and-PIN technology.
Finally, despite the noticeable added weight of a metal credit card, their dimensions are roughly the same as those of a plastic credit card. Both a metal and plastic credit card fit into a standard wallet’s card slot, although metal cards might be slightly thicker.
How to Get a Metal Credit Card
Various card companies offer credit card products that issue a metal card, if you qualify. A good credit card rule of thumb to find the right card — whether metal or otherwise — is to compare various features, such as annual fees, rewards programs, sign-up bonus incentives and minimum required spend, and other card benefits.
Here are some examples of where to get a metal credit card and its specific card product name(s):
• Amazon: Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card
• American Express: Gold Card, Platinum Card, Centurion Card
• Apple: Apple Card
• Capital One: Savor, Venture X
• Chase: Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve
• Citi: Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard
• HSBC: Elite World Elite Mastercard
• JP Morgan: Reserve Credit Card
• MasterCard: Gold Card, Titanium Card, Black Card
• U.S. Bank: Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card
Factors to Consider Before Getting a Metal Credit Card
Flashing credit card metal when dining out might seem intriguing, but the bells and whistles of a premium metal card will also cost you. And, at the end of the day, a credit card’s material doesn’t affect what a credit card is and how it serves you.
Generally, credit card companies offer a metal credit card for its premium card products that charge steep annual fees. For example, for the privilege of using a swanky metal card, you might have to pay an annual fee of $95, with some cards charging up to a $550 annual fee.
If that’s within your budget, take a closer look at the benefits and incentives that the metal card offers, compared to non-metal cards. Whichever card you get next should serve your needs, whether that’s preference for high bonus reward categories in your top monthly spending categories or unique travel benefits and protections.
Also, consider that getting rid of your metal card takes a bit more effort than a standard plastic card. Whether you close your account or you’re issued a replacement for an expired card, you’ll usually have to mail your old metal card to the issuer for disposal. They’ll issue you a dedicated envelope to do so, but it’s an extra step that doesn’t exist with a plastic card.
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Pros and Cons of Metal Credit Cards
As you can see, there are both upsides and downsides to metal credit cards. Here are the pros and cons to take into consideration before you get a metal credit card:
|Sleek style||Slightly bulkier in wallet|
|Less prone to damage||May need to mail in for disposal|
|Typically offers premium card benefits||Typically has a high annual fee|
|Associated with luxury||Novelty is fading|
How to Destroy a Metal Credit Card
If your existing metal credit card has passed its credit card expiration date, you won’t be able to destroy it using a standard pair of scissors, nor can you put it in a shredder that could typically handle your plastic cards.
To effectively destroy a metal credit card, you must either:
1. Return it to your card issuer by mail. Your issuer will provide you with a prepaid mailing envelope.
2. Drop it off at a local branch. If your issuer has a brick-and-mortar location, it might be able to dispose of it or mail it to the correct department.
Since the card is made of metal, it requires industrial-grade tools to dispose of securely. Additionally, shredding it yourself might result in injury. Consider relinquishing the metal card to your issuer for safe disposal.
Metal credit cards might add panache to your credit card rotation, but their aesthetic appeal shouldn’t be the only reason to seek one out. A plastic card that has a generous rewards program might be more valuable in the long run than a metal credit card that has limited perks. Always consider your own credit card habits, the types of purchases you make, and the benefits that are most valuable to you when shopping for a new credit card.
Can anyone get a metal credit card?
Everyday consumers who meet a card issuer’s lending criteria can be eligible for a metal credit card. Unlike decades prior when metal credit cards were accessible to a select few by invitation only, today more card issuers offer their own metal credit card.
Are metal credit cards safe?
Yes, metal credit cards are safe to use. They have the same security features as their plastic credit card counterparts. The main difference is that the credit card metal material is more durable.
Can I request a metal credit card?
No, generally, a metal credit card is not a feature you can choose. Instead, metal credit cards are offered for specific credit card products that you can apply for.
Why are some metal credit cards heavy?
Credit card metal materials vary depending on the card. Some card companies use materials like stainless steel, aluminum, titanium, or a blended mix of metals to create the card. Different metals have different weights, some of which may feel heavier.
Are metal credit cards generally better?
No, metal credit cards aren’t better than plastic cards in terms of how the card functions or its features. Metal credit cards do have an edge when it comes to durability, however.
Photo credit: iStock/VioletaStoimenova
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