(Bloomberg) -- The latest trend in credit and debit cards isn’t a new reward or extra cash back -- it’s going vertical.
Banks and retailers have started turning away from horizontal designs and are opting to issue cards with a portrait orientation instead. Part of the thinking: Swiping a magnetic stripe horizontally is becoming a thing of the past as more consumers dip or tap their cards at checkout.
“The vertical orientation makes sense from how the customer is handling the card,” said Daniela Jorge, vice president of design at PayPal Holdings Inc., which has introduced credit and debit cards with vertical designs for its Venmo app. “And with phone apps like Instagram and TikTok, the world around us is becoming more of the portrait mode and the vertical orientation.”
The coronavirus pandemic has sapped consumer spending on things like travel and dining. Still, when Americans are stepping out to shop, they’re increasingly looking for ways to avoid touching grimy card readers. That’s where tapping comes in.
Credit and debit cards that can be used with contactless readers have a little symbol that looks like the Wi-Fi insignia turned on its side. Such cards come with antennas that wrap around their perimeters, allowing users to hold them within one to two inches of a payment terminal and wait for confirmation their payment’s been accepted.
“They don’t actually need to physically tap their card, they can just hover it,” Julie Scharff, vice president for North America consumer products at Visa Inc., said in an interview.
Banks have issued a whopping 300 million Visa cards that can be tapped at checkout in the U.S., and 260 of the country’s top 300 merchants have added the capability in their stores. For retailers, it’s usually the speed of a contactless transaction that’s most appealing: Tapping takes an average of 12.5 seconds, compared with 26.7 seconds for a conventional card payment and 33.7 seconds for cash.
In recent weeks, Bank of America Corp., the second-largest U.S. debit-card issuer, became the first major financial institution to introduce a vertical design on its debit cards. Hudson’s Bay Co., which calls itself the oldest company in North America, recently debuted a co-brand card with a vertical design.
“Switching our debit cards to a vertical layout is about more than how the cards look,” April Schneider, head of consumer and small-business products at Bank of America, said in an email. “The vertical layout differentiates the debit card from other cards clients use, and the addition of tap-to-pay makes the card faster and safer to use at in-store checkout.”
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