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By Jason Steele
September 17, 2020
Money; Getty Images

Is your credit card ripe for a technology update? That’s what some entrepreneurs think, and they’re going all in on a new generation of credit cards that attempt to leverage emerging tech for an upgraded user experience.

Among the coolest new features of this breed of futuristic cards is their ability to create temporary virtual credit card numbers — which can be used for purchases and then disappear before they could possibly be used by a scammer. There are some great old-fashioned perks for these cards too, like the chance of earning 3x points or more on purchases.

The X1 Card

According to X1’s co-founder and CEO, Deepak Rao, there’s been “No true innovation in credit cards for multiple decades.” He notes that most people use basically the same cards as their parents and even their grandparents, and he cites cards that are still in use that have been available since before he was born. So he and his team are introducing the X1 Card this fall to appeal to tech-savvy millennials and Gen Z users, who he says make up 60%of the workforce, but have no credit card tailored to their needs.

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Among the innovations this card is set to deliver is a new way of allocating credit that goes beyond credit scores and looks at the users current and future income to set credit limits and interest rates. The X1 Card will also feature auto-expiring virtual credit cards, instant notifications on refunds and the ability to attach receipts to purchases. Other features include the ability to split the check seamlessly and to shop anonymously with incognito mode.

The X1 Card offers 2x points on every single purchase, which increases to 3x points on all purchases for the year if you spend at least $15,000 on the card in that year. You can also earn 4x points on every single purchase for a month for every friend you refer. And the card you receive will be a laser etched card made of stainless steel. The X1 Card has no annual fee and an APR of 12.9% – 19.9%.

The Unicorn Card Visa from

In August, a company called announced a new card designed by what CEO and co-founder Ry Brown called “a crew of hackers, artists, and scientists, with just a couple recovering bankers in the mix.”

The Unicorn Card Visa, which features its namesake on the front of its black metal card, also tries to use technology to let users control their privacy. Its “Friend & Foe” feature claims to allow users to directly manage the trust and permissions granted to individual merchants while its “High Security Mode” purports to generate secure, finite authorization windows for specific transactions. This should protect users from merchants making unauthorized charges with the card numbers previously given.

The card also features a so-called “Flux Capacitor” feature, which is supposed to allow users to see future transactions and to automatically spend or budget accordingly. Other technology includes instant deposits, mobile check capture, payroll and other direct deposits two days early, and an onboarding process that allows users to start spending within minutes of applying. As with many new cards, the Unicorn Card Visa is made of metal. But the card also allows you to use it as a debit card, avoiding interest and fees while accessing cash from ATMs.

The Apple Card

Perhaps the forerunner of these latest entrants is the Apple credit card, which was introduced in 2019 to much fanfare. Made of titanium, this card has no fees and leverages several Apple features including Face ID, Touch ID and Apple Pay to enhance user privacy and security. Its rewards are returned instantly as Daily Cash back, displayed on the customer’s iPhone. There’s no annual fee or other fees for this card, which is issued by Goldman Sachs.

Bottom line

Credit cards aren’t consumer goods, they’re financial products. And when choosing a credit card, your top priority should be to find the one with the rewards, features and benefits that best meet your needs, which might not necessarily be the most beautiful card.

At the same time, the tech companies and entrepreneurs behind this new generation of credit cards are betting that we’re ready for new features that will dramatically improve the card user experience. If these cards succeed in the marketplace, it will only be a matter of time until other card issuers take notice, and try to compete not just on rewards and benefits, but on technology as well.

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