This aspect of your credit card is changing – here’s why

March 29, 2021

Our retail payments head Steve Mattics discusses the design process behind the new U.S. Bank Altitude Go.

Our new U.S. Bank Altitude Go is taking credit cards in a new direction. 

It is one of the first cards that we have designed with vertical orientation – part of a broader trend in the industry, as reported by Bloomberg.

Since their modern-day inception in the 1950s, payment technology has boxed credits cards into horizontal orientation. In those early years through the 1970s, it helped merchants record purchases by taking an imprint with a so-called “knuckle-buster” device. Then from the 1980s through the 2000s, it accommodated the magnetic stripe.  

In recent years, however, technology has paved the way for change. In the 2010s, the proliferation of EMV chips led to consumers inserting the end of their card into payment terminals. And in recent years, the adoption of tap-to-pay has taken that a step further by only requiring the wave of a card near terminals.

So, in building Altitude Go, which launched in June 2020, our team decided to experiment with vertical design.

“Many financial products are not something you touch every day, but cards are different,” said Steve Mattics, head of retail payments at U.S. Bank. “Even in a digital world, our customers tell us that physical card design matters.”

Mattics was quick to add, though, that the increasing use of digital wallets such as Apple Pay does bring a caveat to the vertical design of Altitude Go – in that it becomes well, horizontal, as soon as you turn it sideways. For easy identification in digital (and some physical) wallets, the word “GO” runs flush atop the right side of the card. 

Then there are the intangible aspects of credit cards as well. Altitude Go, for example, includes rewards like 4X points on food takeout and delivery and 2X points on streaming services – a structure that, during a year in which people spent so much time at home, earned the card a spot in the 2021 Best-Of Awards by NerdWallet. 

“The design process usually takes 4 to 6 months,” said Mattics, in noting that the card was in development before the pandemic hit. “But yes, we have certainly seen an uptick in spend on food and streaming over the past year.”

Mattics, who joined U.S. Bank in 2018 from Nordstrom, said that his team is particularly focused on understanding how customers use cards, as well as how they apply for them.

One key investment has been a smooth and fast digital application process. But we have also put thought into how customers get to that point. For co-branded cards with BMW and Harley-Davidson, for example, we built a text-to-apply gateway into the application that customers can easily complete while at a dealership. 

“As we develop new credit cards,” said Mattics, “we put our customers at the center of what we do.”

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