The Citi Prestige Card – Unintelligent Design

The premium credit card market seems to understand that people love shiny objects, even if the shiny object has no intrinsic value. If you’re a bank who’s charging your customer a few hundred bucks for the privilege of collecting transaction fees and (you hope) interest payments, you have to give them a cool hunk of plastic, right? I’ll admit that I love me a nicely-designed credit card. A blank piece of plastic with a magnetic strip will work just as well, and whatever benefits I get as a cardmember have nothing to do with the physical object in my wallet, but it’s the same with any functional object, be it a watch or a pair of sunglasses. It may not be as important as a nice suit, but a fancy credit card definitely sits somewhere on the “looking good – feeling good” spectrum.

Look how happy this guy is to be carrying a gold Amex card.

As the upstart in the $400+ annual fee club, Citi Prestige has to come up with a wow design in order to justify its place at the table. It doesn’t have the classic high-end cachet of the Amex Platinum design, the “I must be rich because my credit card is black” aura of the Visa Black card, and certainly not the “I am definitely rich because my credit card is black AND says American Express on it” kill shot you get with the Centurion. By and large, I think Citi succeeds. Their card looks really nice, it has a subtle hologram effect, and the translucent blue window is neat.

You know what isn’t neat, though? THE STRIPE ON THE FRONT. What benefit could there possibly be to putting the stripe on the front? I’ve had the card for months now, and I’m still trying to figure this out. The best I can figure is that Citi wants its most Prestigious cardholders to have a hitherto unknown kind of cachet: the “I’m so Prestigious that I have a credit card that a pleb like you can’t even figure out how to use!” kind. Unfortunately, that’s probably the most unpleasant cachet that anyone could ever carry… and the people waiting behind you in line while you explain to the cashier how to swipe your card certainly won’t hold you in any high regard either.

So, in conclusion: Citi’s graphic design department gets an A, but someone signed off on the design for this card without ever considering that people may want to use it for transactions out in the world. Citi, if you’re listening, please issue a card with a stripe on the back where it’s supposed to go. And make it out of metal like the Chase Sapphire while you’re at it: nothing says “I’m more important than you” than a credit card that weighs as much as a garage door opener.

Requisite question designed to spur a flurry of responses in the comments section: Do YOU go out of your way to appear suave and sophisticated by seeking out fancy credit cards?

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