Writes about personal finance, health care and other topics.
I have a really cute labradoodle dog named Georgie. She’s so cute, I’d like to look at her all the time – even, say, when I’m making a purchase. Well, lucky for me, that’s possible. With the right credit card, of course.
Once upon a time, a credit card was simply a piece of plastic stamped with your name and card number, and the bank’s logo plastered somewhere above or between the two. These days, depending on which credit card issuer you choose, you have the option of literally designing your own card image, or choosing from among a library of images offered by the issuing company. From cheering on your favorite NFL team, to conjuring the ambiance of a sun-kissed beach, to displaying the fuzzy mug of your own darling canine, the card options are endless – and the choice is yours.
The greatest scope of offerings comes from Capital One – or, if you’re willing to limit yourself to just debit cards, Wells Fargo. “We want to give customers the opportunity to personalize their cards with images that reflect what’s important to them,” said Natalie Brown, a Wells Fargo vice president of communications.
|CREDIT CARD PERSONALIZATION: WHICH CARDS ALLOW IT?|
|Card issuer||Personalization?||What kind of personalization?|
10 choices, on Disney Cards only, and options range from Darth Vader to Tinker Bell
|Bank of America|
Only what they call “affinity” cards (such as your collegiate alma mater, or your favorite NFL team) or “co-brand” cards (Celebrity Cruises or the World Wildlife Fund)
Pretty much anything you want: Choose from a stable of images, or upload your own (with exceptions, such as images of skulls or firearms)
Customers can choose from a stable of designs
On debit cards only, customers can choose from a library of images, or submit their own (again, there are exceptions, such as the name or likeness of a celebrity)
Only on debit cards, and then only eight options – four photos (i.e. a beach, a puppy) and four professional sports teams
Some co-branded cards have options. For instance, the NFL card offers 33 different team and logo choices
It offers five superhero options on its Marvel Mastercard
Members can choose military affinity cards that advertise their support for, say, Blue Star Families or the American Legion
|Source: CreditCards.com research|
Sorry, Georgie, you lack pixels
However, it may not be as easy as it sounds. I happen to have a Capital One credit card, so I thought I would try uploading a picture of the fabulous Georgie, just to see how she looked on plastic. But the computer said my image didn’t have enough pixels.
No problem! Georgie just happened to be sleeping on the futon right behind my desk chair. I snapped another photo of her and uploaded it. Again – not enough pixels. Fine. I tried a photo of our whole family, taken by a professional photographer. Same response. Another photo, snapped of my son and his friends on a recent trip. Same thing again.
Oh well. It’s not like they don’t have enough images on offer. I counted 17 dog images alone – none quite as darling as Georgie, in my opinion, but they would do – along with 38 photos of beaches, six pictures of flowers, and, among others, a snapshot of a sprinkled doughnut so luscious I momentarily forgot I was gluten-free.
Of course, there are some things you can neither place on one of these cards, nor expect the bank to offer you in its image library. Capital One lists quite a few no-nos, including:
- Firearms that “are the central focus of the image”
- Children in diapers
- Political or religious content
Both Capital One and Wells Fargo will also turn down any personal image that includes copyrighted material or the photo or likeness of a public person (so no Beyonce cards without her express permission).
Personalized from a menu
Some credit card issuers offer one or two lines of co-branded cards that have design options. For instance, Synchrony customers can pick from among five superhero designs on that company’s Marvel credit card.
Chase only offers options on one card, its Disney card. Customers who want to earn points toward Disney purchases can choose between 10 designs, including Star Wars characters, Mickey Mouse and a “Frozen” card featuring Elsa. And Barclaycard customers who want an NFL-branded card can choose from more than 30 different team options.
Other banks offer only “affinity” cards, meaning ones that declare the customer’s allegiance to a particular place or cause. Bank of America debit card customers can pick a debit card that marks them as an alumnus of UCLA, or as a supporter of the American Quarter Horse Association.
USAA does not provide personalization, but does offer its members cards that proclaim their support for a branch of the armed forces, or a veteran’s organization. “We’ve received feedback from our membership that they enjoy our card themed to pay homage to military culture,” said USAA spokeswoman Gloria Manzano.
Of course, there always have to be some holdouts, and in this case, that category includes American Express and Citibank, neither one of which offers its customers a personalization option. Matt Fields of Barclaycard said the reason his company does not offer personalization is simply lack of demand. “Our research has not identified [personalization] as a consumer need for our programs (rewards and benefits typically top the list),” he wrote in an email.
To be fair, I probably fall in that category as well. Years ago, I took a few moments to personalize my Capital One card; for more than half a decade, I’ve been walking around with a Popsicle photo on my charge card. It’s kind of a bright green, and if I’d just managed to get Georgie’s head shot uploaded to the right program, I probably would have switched it out. It’s not a big deal, though, because I don’t use that card very often. I found I get more versatile airline points on a different card, from another brand, and that’s what matters most to me, in the end.
Sorry, Georgie. I’ll just have to carry you around on my phone – and of course, at the end of a leash.