Embossed payment cards have been the industry standard since their inception in the 1950s, when point-of-sale terminals included carbon copy card imprinters. With growing innovation in payment card ecosystems, flat card formats are rapidly gaining momentum around the world, as financial institutions, issuers, and consumers recognize the value and opportunity they bring. Even though traditional embossing offers a robust, tactile look and feel, it continues to wane in popularity vs. newer trends. This evolution to an un-embossed card, or more commonly called flat card, continues to drive positive outcomes. In fact, a recent Entrust survey showed that 77% of issuers polled experienced higher transaction volumes after adopting flat cards. Let’s look at a few reasons un-embossed cards continue to evolve.

Aesthetic Appeal

Flat cards are, put simply, cool, hip, and trendy. They aren’t exactly new to the card issuance market, but they continue to dazzle consumers with a sleek, durable finish. In fairness, the acceptance of this alternative to embossing took time to adopt, as first impressions for some were that the “flatness” of these cards gave them a cheap feel. In hindsight, those first-generation flat cards used an identical design layout to their predecessors, giving the initial user interface a “substitution effect.” Account information and other personal identifiers were all located in the same place, but the embossed characters were absent, leaving consumers to question whether this switch was merely a cost consideration or sourcing exercise from their card issuer. Over the past few years though, banks, issuers, and marketers alike have flipped the script to shift paradigm with flat cards by trying new things to entice consumers. The result has been nothing short of demonstrable eye-popping design and card-orientation flexibility, giving flat cards top-of-wallet status today with a clean, modern look.

Brand-Building Opportunities

With the movement of personal information to the back of the card, the front has morphed into a blank canvas to bring a bank’s brand to life. Banks are even able to call out niche programs like eco-friendly, loyalty, or others that connect more meaningfully to consumers. In parallel, flat card designs offer an enhanced user experience (UX) by offering print-on-demand features like the ability to customize them with high-quality personal pictures directly printed onto a card (i.e., family portrait, kids, pets, sports, etc.). Additional options like vertical card orientation, stacked primary account number (PAN), and full edge-to-edge printing offer limitless opportunities to make the physical card experience exciting. Banks and consumers continue to connect with each other through these designs, while dynamic card verification value (CVV), embedded biometric sensors, and digital credentials also continue to surprise and delight customers throughout their financial credential journey.

Operational Efficiencies

Bureaus and card issuers continue to see shifts to flat card technology as their customers incorporate new requirements to capitalize on these enhanced benefits. In a recent Entrust survey, 60% of card-issuance respondents cited increased efficiency and/or reduced cost as a primary driver for switching to flat cards, in addition to market demands. As the scale of flat cards continues to ramp, so will operational gains, eventually leading to its place at the top of the preferred issuance technology list.

Overall, flat cards offer more flexibility and operational efficiency. Card marketers can simply go further with design, customization, and UX, and consumers like the look and feel of flat card technology. Banks can leverage flat card benefits to go further with top-of-wallet status, and issuers are citing improvements in their operating expenses.

Meeting the Moment

Entrust continues to support this movement by bridging the gap between personalization equipment, secure customer interactions, and the latest innovations in high-volume central and instant financial issuance for flat cards. Our portfolio of solutions including Durable Graphics, Drop on Demand, Artista Desktop, Artista VHD, and Sigma DS4 with Light Curing Module continue to offer platform flexibility built around flat card opportunities. For more information on Entrust issuance and flat card flexibility, visit our unembossed credit cards webpage.