Portrait bank cards are designed with practicality in mind

Shawn Knight

Posts: 13,616   +139
Staff member

Most people don’t give a whole lot of thought to their bank card aside from perhaps spicing things up with a novelty theme like their favorite sports team or a charity they support. Indeed, credit and debit cards haven’t changed a whole lot since their inception decades ago.

A recent feature addition, however, now has some believing a total redesign is in order and looking at the evidence, it’s hard to argue against it at this point.

The UK’s Starling Bank recently introduced vertical bank cards. It sounds like a design gimmick with no merit but hear me out.

As Starling’s art director Mark Day explains, traditional bank cards were designed in landscape because of the way old card machines worked. They are embossed with raised numbers so they could be printed on sales vouchers. The problem is that we no longer use those old credit card imprinters.

Today, when you hand over your card to a cashier, odds are, you do so while holding it in portrait orientation. The same goes for when you insert your card into an ATM machine or tap it for a contactless payment. Swiping a card vertically along its magnetic strip is still somewhat common but with chip-enabled cards, that method is also going away.

When you think about it, Day says, a landscape card is just a solution to a “problem” that no longer exists.

In designing their new card, Starling Bank looked at how people use cards today and the answer was obvious – in portrait orientation. The new card was designed accordingly and is said to feel like a natural extension of their mobile app (they are a mobile-only bank, after all). All of the relevant details have been moved to the back of the card, leaving a clean and clutter-free look up front. They’ve also ditched the bumpy embossing as there’s no need for it these days.

Starling isn’t the first to design a vertical bank card but it’s perhaps the first to draw this much attention to it. Virgin America, for example, has a vertical Visa credit card although it doesn’t look nearly as good as Starling’s option as it crams all of the user details on the front. GM also has a Capital One MasterCard but again, it looks cluttered.

I’m typically resistant to changes like this (I’m still not quite on board with the whole vertical photo / video movement) but in this case, I welcome the design shift. It’s practical for how we use bank cards today, it eliminates unnecessary embossed numbers (their paint usually rubs off within a few months of use) and it’s more aesthetically pleasing (Starling’s example, anyway).

What do you think of Starling’s new card design? Would you trade in your current plastic for a vertical version or do you prefer to stick with the tried-and-true landscape orientation?

Permalink to story.

 

Sausagemeat

Posts: 1,043   +870
I’d get a vertical card just for the gimmickry. But don’t really see any point in it.

Would be nice to move away from cards altogether and just scan my phone at the ATM to get cash. It would be more sustainable and also more secure but also the downside of meaning I can get no cash when my phone runs out of battery. Currently I love how I can pop out with just my phone and still pay for things, board planes and even collect points on loyalty cards.
 

Slappy McPhee

Posts: 207   +131
I’d get a vertical card just for the gimmickry. But don’t really see any point in it.

Would be nice to move away from cards altogether and just scan my phone at the ATM to get cash. It would be more sustainable and also more secure but also the downside of meaning I can get no cash when my phone runs out of battery. Currently I love how I can pop out with just my phone and still pay for things, board planes and even collect points on loyalty cards.


It is more secure to a point, but then again also more insecure to rely specifically on using your mobile. There are numerous ways that your data can be captured OTA with NFC and BT.
 

Uncle Al

Posts: 8,356   +7,165
"Today's landscape bank cards are a solution to a problem that no longer exists"

I couldn't have said it any better .......
 

johnehoffman

Posts: 45   +65
Aren't any of you more interested in the financial terms of the card (annual fee, rebates, interest rates, etc.) than in which way the printing on the card runs?
 

mailpup

Posts: 7,700   +776
TS Special Forces
Aren't any of you more interested in the financial terms of the card (annual fee, rebates, interest rates, etc.) than in which way the printing on the card runs?
Well, the subject of the article is which way the printing on the card runs.
 

Knot Schure

Posts: 375   +175
I'd like the option of my photo on the front of my card, to help combat abuse.

Should a card have the photo option, the retailer would then deny any transaction from any person not matching the description.
 

VBKing

Posts: 75   +36
I'd like the option of my photo on the front of my card, to help combat abuse.

Should a card have the photo option, the retailer would then deny any transaction from any person not matching the description.

Maybe they could put the chip in our hand. Then we wouldn't need the card.
 

amghwk

Posts: 1,097   +1,013
But... then, we will need a portrait oriented wallet...

Keeping a portrait oriented card in a landscape oriented wallet becomes very confusing and disorienting...
 

mbrowne5061

Posts: 1,947   +1,133
I don't know about anyone else, but the raised numbers help me extract my card from my wallet sometimes; I'd prefer they stay.
 

JamesSWD

Posts: 331   +184
I'd like the option of my photo on the front of my card, to help combat abuse.

Should a card have the photo option, the retailer would then deny any transaction from any person not matching the description.
Except...no cashier would bother looking at the photo and match it to you. Like at the grocery store, the card reader is facing the customer and whether you swipe or insert the card in the chip reader, the card is never fully exposed to the cashier.

And currently, 99% of cashiers never even check your ID when using a card. A few weeks ago, friend of mine's car was broken down and stuck in his garage, so he gave me his credit card to get a new part from the auto parts store. I flew right through and bought his part with his card without the cashier bothering to check my ID. This is common in almost every store, although I'm sure it's policy to match ID with the name on the card. And using a photo version of the card would present the same issue as my earlier example: The orientation of the card reader, like in grocery stores, doesn't expose the front of the card to the cashier for a photo version of the card to be a good solution, either...as they wouldn't bother checking anyway.
 
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