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The Next Big Credit Card Redesign

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — If you receive a new Visa credit card that looks mostly blank on the front, don’t worry, it’s probably not a fake.

Visa is trying out a new design on select cards, placing the 16-digit number, expiration date and Visa logo on the back of the card and leaving the front empty except for the name of the cardholder and bank in an effort to boost the visibility of the financial institution issuing the card.

Visa wouldn’t say specifically which cards have been redesigned, but Chase confirmed to MainStreet that its Sapphire card is one of the first – if not the first – to be overhauled. Those who receive a Sapphire card now will notice the back is crowded with all the main account information just below the three-digit verification number, along with the Visa logo in the corner, but the front is clean and features the Chase brand name prominently.

"In an effort to help our financial institutions pursue options to maximize their branding opportunity on Visa cards, while maintaining the authenticity and integrity of the Visa brand, we are evaluating refinements that allow for the alternative placement of account information and security elements through limited market programs," a Visa spokesperson said in a statement.

Laura Rossi, the director of public relations at Chase Card Services, hinted that this change might improve the security of the card in addition to the appearance, noting that the redesign could prove to be “an added security feature for consumers.” She didn’t elaborate exactly as to how.

The credit experts MainStreet spoke with speculated that the new design could, in theory, serve as a modest fraud deterrent for consumers because all the sensitive information is on the back and would face away from the cashier when you swipe, reducing the chances that someone could try memorize your number.

In practice, however, the redesign isn’t likely to help security much if at all.

“Now you have all your information on the back including the credit card verification number, and one could argue that’s actually less secure,” says Odysseas Papadimitriou, the CEO and founder of Card Hub, speculating that in the worst-case scenario this could serve as one-stop shopping for someone looking to lift your credit card information.

“At the end of the day, though, I don’t think it’s more secure or less secure," Papadimitriou added. "I think it’s just purely for aesthetic reasons to make the front of the card even more appealing.”

In the world of credit cards, major redesigns are few and far between and tend to revolve around the look and feel of a card rather than its functionality.

Papadimitriou says he can remember two or three big, successful design changes from the previous decade, including when American Express introduced a transparent card with a 3-D emblem in the early 2000s and more recently when Capital One allowed customers to customize their cards with a photo of their choice. Both of these changes, like Visa's redesign, were primarily done for the sake of aesthetics.

While Visa's change only applies to a select number of cards now, industry experts predict that Visa will expand this to other cards and perhaps even spark other card companies to follow suit.

“I think that Visa is probably using the Chase Sapphire to test this change and get people used to it before it tries to replicate this design on other cards,” says Beverly Harzog, the credit card expert for Credit.com. “I expect we’ll be seeing more of this in the future.”

Have you noticed a change to your credit card design recently? Let us know in the comments section!

—For a comprehensive credit report, visit the BankingMyWay.com Credit Center.

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