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Innovations and Payment Systems

If you really want a metal credit card, you can get one for a fee

Summary

The Lion Credit Card startup will turn your plastic card into a metal one for a fee, but why would you want to do that? And the International Card Manufacturers Association says the chip transfer raises security issues.

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Have you always envied those high-rolling, well-heeled sorts who create their own drop-the-mic moment every time they present their half-ounce premium metal credit card for payment at bars, restaurants and sporting events?

That dope move can now be yours, thanks to an enterprising San Jose, California, startup called Lion Credit Cards.

For a relatively modest sum, the Lion team will convert your boring, bourgeois vinyl card into a sleek, stainless steel status symbol available in six finishes: black, gold, silver, carbon, chrome or camo. The basic custom and premier styles cost $159, plus $29 to have the EMV chip transplanted and $15 to display your logo on your new card. Or for a flat $219, you can work with a Lion Card designer to create your very own full custom card.

Lion Credit Card CEO Jonny Vu has a definite fix on his heavy metal clientele. “Millennials prefer the sleekness of the metal credit card, along with the status symbol it provides,” he explains.

See related: Platinum card really does equal prestige, researchers find

Card industry raises security concerns

It is the transfer of the EMV chip card (not to mention handing over your card information to a startup) that concern card manufacturers.

“This does appear to be a service that would be frowned upon by both issuers and card manufacturers,” says Al Vrancart, founder emeritus of the International Card Manufacturers Association and credit card industry adviser. “Plastic EMV cards are made to exacting production and security standards that were not intended for a chip to removed and changed to another card. There are also additional security elements in the card body itself that would likely not be replicated in the metal card body to which the chip is transferred.

“The card brands like Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover and others would likely not support this type of activity. They already have enough issues with counterfeiters swapping chips,” Vrancart adds.

Premium metal rewards cards’ lofty annual fees

As for the Lion Club plastic-to-metal card cost, that pales in comparison to most of the branded heavy metal chits. The Platinum Card from American Express, for example, has a $550 annual fee, more than twice Lion’s one-time bill for a card you can use for years. The Chase Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card and the United MileagePlus Club Card charge an annual fee of $450, while the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve credit card taps you for $400 each year.

Oh, and the steely card issuers are a little fussy about your credit rating, requiring a good (700-749) to excellent (750+) rating before dealing metal. In fact, some high-end metal cards, including the American Express Centurion or “Black Card,” are available by invitation only. To land a Centurion, you must not only have spent $250,000 on your AmEx in the past year but are expected to continue to do so.

Granted, the metal crowd enjoys an embarrassment of perks and rewards for packing the steel. But if your credit rating barely cracks 600 and your card spending consists of a magazine subscription and a monthly cable bill, you probably aren’t going to be taking advantage of that free annual stay in Dubai anyway.

Do the math: Better ways to spend that Lion Credit Card fee

If you absolutely must have a metal credit card in your deck, Lion Card may cease that wild roar.

Then again, if you choose to stick with plastic, you could put that $159/$219 toward paying down your card debt or the purchase of your next three dozen Starbucks lattes.

See related: Metal cards and new tariffs: Will status symbols cost more?

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