Big Print Blog

Why are we calling this blog "Big Print"?

Because we want to shed some light on the small print you see in financial documents. By pulling back the curtain on how a credit card company really works, we can work together to be better.

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A Kind of Blue? The Barclaycard Ring Plastic
Barclays Ring Public Blog

From what I’ve read, Miles Davis was one cool customer. I actually experienced a small sliver of his cool-ness a while ago. Right after I graduated from college, I got a new credit card through First USA Bank (now Chase) and it had a super cool image of Miles Davis on the front. First USA was promoting a jazz lifestyle product and I couldn’t pass it up. I loved pulling that card (or “plastics” as we call them) out of my wallet. I’m not exaggerating when I say that 50% of all people who I passed it to commented on how cool the plastic was. It often led to interesting and pleasant conversations with people I wouldn’t have normally interacted with. I loved it. And I think I felt just the smallest sliver of Miles Davis’ cool.


Ultimately, Miles Davis’ estate changed pricing for the use of that image so it was replaced with a generic jazz image. I closed the account and moved on. Since then I’ve taken a more utility focused approach to my credit card choices, but deep down I wish I could find a plastic that looks as good as that one. So that brings me to the plastic we have for Barclaycard Ring. It’s a popular topic in the community and I wanted to share my thoughts on the potential future of our plastic.


Silly or not, we take pride in and attach some meaning to how our plastic looks. The leader in this area is unquestionably American Express. They have managed to create a presence around their plastics and brand that people are excited and feel good about. Given how important the plastic is to members and given how important our community members are to us, we want to create an open dialogue where we talk about what’s next.


Community members have made quite a few requests for new plastic options;  picture cards, metal cards and design changes that call for getting rid of the orange color. Let’s discuss it all!


Metal Card. As you may have read in other blogs we partner with a company that manages much of our day-to-day data processing. It also produces and distributes our plastics. Currently it does not have the capability to produce a metal card. However, it just so happens that someone else within Barclaycard is looking into developing this capability with the company. We received some initial production costs and found it would be close to a half million dollars to buy and set up the machine to create the metal cards. On top of that, pricing for each individual card, without the benefit of scale, would be between $100-$200. That is a lot of dough. You’ve hopefully all perused our community financial stats at some point and if you have, you no doubt know that our current financials can’t support costs this high. So we would be reliant on another business area to develop this.  Even then we would likely need to pass the cost of the plastic on to the individuals who selected a metal card. At this point it seems unlikely we’ll be able to make this work but I’ll keep tracking our internal progress for you.


Picture Card. We have a relationship with a company that offer a fast way for cardmembers to upload a picture to put on their plastic. They even have the ability to do this right from a Facebook page. The costs are much more manageable than the metal card option and are dependent on how many people opt for the feature. Based on how many people select it we would need to charge fees of $5 or $10 per card. JenH is going to put up a poll (after the charity poll) to gauge your interest in this one and to see what you would be willing to pay for the feature. Once we have that data we can make a specific proposal.


supergraphic_blue.pngThe “Supergraphic”. For those who won’t opt for the picture card we still have the good old Barclaycard Ring “orange horizon” design on the current plastic. So what are the options for our base card? Most of the cardmembers’ cards don’t expire until end of 2014 and we made 40,000 “orange horizon” plastics at launch. Realistically we likely won’t need a new batch of plastics until 2014. So, we do have some time to consider a design change. Before we get too far into that I need to educate you about something we call “brand guidelines.”  These guidelines; from visual rules to tone of voice objectives, are there to help everyone in the business know how to present our brand in the market. To that point, there are very specific rules about how Barclaycard plastics need to look. For example we need to use a particular graphic, referred to here as the “supergraphic”, on the plastics. (It is a beautiful, wonderful monster graphic. To see it reminds me of some of the visuals in 2001: A Space Odyssey.) For Barclaycard Ring we chose a half-circle sliver of it and placed it at the bottom of the plastic to 1) identify the ring and 2) give the abstract sense of a new horizon. Those of you who have other Barclaycard branded cards see different slices of the supergraphic on your plastic and in a different color. Since the time we created Barclaycard Ring, Barclaycard has removed the color orange from possible plastic colors. We currently use white, cyan, black, grey, purple and dark purple. And the supergraphics tend to have a blend of each of those colors. Changing the design on the plastic requires two steps. First, we need to pick a supergraphic colors; we’d probably select a subset of them. Second, we need to select the sliver we want and where it should sit on the plastic. That’s about the level of crowdsourcing we’re allowed to engage in. And it’s worth noting that Barclaycard will have to approve our design choices.


We’d also need to decide if it’s worth it to spend $1 on the RFID chip again. I think it would be pretty cool for the community to decide all of this.


Other plastic features exist in the market like, scratch and sniff, textured plastics, foil (gives that metallic look), a gloss coating, translucent plastics, etc and we may also be able to look into some of those different production options. That is, if you want to…


I’ve written more than enough…curious to read your reaction. Cardmembers, post your comments inside the community on this blog post. Not a cardmember? Feel free to share your thoughts on the Barclaycard Ring Facebook page!

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