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August 9, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Anthony David Adams might have the toughest job in the art world. His canvas, only 3-by-2 inches, must be durable, portable and get its viewers charged. Like any other art form, creativity is key to making bank.
Instead of the passé plastic of the past, customized credit cards are giving consumers a whole new reason to pass on cash. Gone are the days where credit customers’ only concerns were low annual interest rates, cash-back rewards and fraud protection. In the age of customization and individual expression, many are choosing aesthetic distinction as their new credit priority.
Adams, the CEO and inventor of CreditCovers, has been dreaming up a vision of changing traditional plastic perception for the past two years. Gold and silver might be fine for coins, but in a world where teenagers can start running up their credit score, there is a call for cards to be more individualized. “Everything else you do when you leave your house, from the clothes that you are wearing to the way you’ve done your hair, everything was so customizable except for your bank card,” Adams says. “The idea of customization in general is the way that our human species marks their territory. I wanted my credit card to represent me.” And with that thought, his canvas was primed.
Prior to Adams’ design revelation, major credit card companies such as Visa, MasterCard and Discover started a virtual design menu of card choices for all tastes. Now, credit card companies are banking on the addition. From cartoon characters to causes, these designs capture a new generational market of clients who feel the need to express themselves, even at the checkout line.
For some cardholders, updating to a creative card is as simple as the click of a mouse. Discover cardholders can access their accounts online and choose from more than 150 different designs. Members can show their patriotism with an American flag card or choose from a line of sea and wildlife designs. Cards bearing a playful dolphin or majestic sea turtle are sure to make a splash.
“It’s a conversation starter,” says Karen Ostergren, a custom card owner. Her dark blue card is adorned with a smiling daisy on the left side, and it never fails to receive special attention from friends and cashiers alike.
Visa is letting teens construct crafty new cards. They can upload their own photos or designs to the teen-friendly PAYjr Visa Buxx card. The company is also holding a card design contest for aspiring artists ages 13 to 18. Designs must be submitted online by Oct. 30 to be eligible. Buxx cardholders will have the option to deck out their card in the winning designs.
Those who want the option can customize without the hassle or the wait by using adhesive skins from Adams’ company, CreditCovers. These stylish stickers are currently being sold at more than 12 locations. Other large retail stores, such as Urban Outfitters, have expressed interest in selling them, as well.
In March 2007, artists such as Todd Arthur Wolf, an oil and watercolor painter, worked with Adams’ vision to design a line of 11 credit covers. Adams’ upcoming second line will feature designs by other established artists. One such designer is Todd Francis, whose illustrations are featured on Element skateboards. “Todd really thought the idea was amazing,” Adams says. “He loved being able to cover corporate artwork with his own.” For those who are picky about their plastic, Matthew Langille, who has worked for major fashion designers such as Marc by Marc Jacobs, is also on the fall design lineup.
The trendy Sukara Sterling Boutique in Madison, Wis., was the first store to sell CreditCovers. “It’s interesting because the response has been the same from everybody,” says store owner Sukara Sterling. “People in their 20s like it, and the older people think it’s really cool, too.”
Banks in Columbia are slowly catching on to the trend in creative cards. When Bank of America customers sign up for the bank’s services, they can select from an array of designs including everything from admired photographer Anne Gedes’ work to cards that show support for the MU Tigers. Personal pictures can also be uploaded via the bank’s Web site for platinum plastic that is completely personalized.
Although custom cards typically cost no extra cash for bank members, certain cards do offer added benefits. By selecting specific designs, cardholders can donate a percentage of what they spend to their favorite local charities.
In Columbia, one of the most popular charity cards is for the Humane Society, says Carrie Haskamp, downtown Bank of America manager. In fact, Haskamp uses the animal-adorned Humane Society card herself. The style is available both as a checking and a credit card.
Whether your plastic supports a cause, contains a personalized portrait or boasts a designer decal, one thing is for sure: In a world of cookie- cutter plastic, credit card art is another way that self-expression lives on.