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If we soon end up paying everything with our phone, what will be the use of a gold, platinum or metal card? If payments will be ‘just’ a commodity how can current brands like MasterCard, Visa and American Express justify their premium product range?

Yes, I hear you say “service,” but let us be honest – there are other brands that are more capable and trustworthy as ‘premium service providers’ in travel and lifestyle. As the current payment solution providers are seen by the general audience as ‘finance companies’ and we all know what consumers think about ‘banks.’

There was a time when fetching a gold card out of your pocket to settle a bill or book an airplane ticket made you look good. The reason you had one was because only people with a certain disposable income were eligible to upgrade their credit card to a premium product. They were asked to pay more for the same product – settle bills – and got the assumption they would receive additional service and offerings. These were in reality rarely used. The real reason people upgrade to gold, platinum or black was because it made them look good.

Credit card providers were able to charge a higher annual fee for ‘brand’ as the usage of the product was visible. The actual services were just camouflage; a rationale after the fact to obscure an emotion. 

Now it is almost 2020 and we increasingly pay by pushing our phone to a tab close to the cash register. Nobody sees if the payment product is the basic debit card of the free neobank or an American Express Centurion; nor the person at the cash register nor the women behind you in line waiting for her decaf frappuchino, Young people will have other ways to see if the person in front of them at the counter is worth checking out. No more flashing of cards in the future.

Will there be a future for the ‘big three’? I believe there is, but there will be a new focus. Rather than the consumer-centered business of today, the future is in enterprise. 

Retailers, hotels, airlines want a secure and seamless payment provider. And consumers will be keen to use a payment method that offers them reliability and the assurance that if something goes wrong during their online shopping their payments will be reversed. Yet, this area does not offer any angles to offer and ‘upgrade’ product.

Pity, I always liked a little bling in my pocket.

Richard Neve is the managing director of Cognito Amsterdam