Editorial Policy

Why Looks Matter to Me When it Comes to Debit and Credit Cards

Allie Johnson

January 10, 2013

When it comes to plastic, do looks matter? I would have said no, until our bank started offering the option to have a personal photo put on your debit card for free.

I never got around to using the service, though it would have been nice to see a photo from my last beach vacation every time I bought a sweater. But my husband thought it would be the perfect solution to an annoying problem — he was always mixing up his debit cards.

We have multiple debit cards because we use several checking accounts to keep our finances straight: a joint checking account to pay our bills and buy groceries, a joint checking account just for debt repayment and individual checking accounts for each of us for the set amount of monthly “want money” we can spend on anything.

We were supposed to use our individual cards for fun and frivolous purchases, but my husband would accidentally pull out the joint debit card at record stores and burger joints. So, he had a different photo (one of each of our dogs) put on his two cards to make it easier to tell them apart. It worked perfectly, and I no longer had to puzzle over random $5 and $10 purchases when I checked our bank accounts.

When we moved out of state and had to find a new bank, I asked if they offered photos on debit cards, and they said they didn’t — it wasn’t cost-effective. I wondered how either Joe or I would ever keep all of our cards straight. The cards were all supposed to be the same gray color.

I asked the bank employee who opened our accounts if there was any way we could get each card in a different color. The bank did have different colored cards for its various checking-account products, but our accounts were all the same type. However, she entered our accounts as different types of checking accounts in order to trick the computer into ordering us black debit cards for our debt repayment account and gold ones for our personal accounts. I thought it was odd the bank didn’t just have this option — we can’t be the only ones who manage our money this way, right?

Fortunately, there are other options for those of us juggling multiple debit or credit cards and trying to keep them all straight:

  • Many credit card companies allow you to personalize your card. For example, Capital One Image Card lets you to have your own photo put on your card for free. Wells Fargo has the free Card Design Studio Service, which allows you upload your own image. Discover lets you choose from a variety of card designs.
  • There’s a company, Credit Covers, that makes skins you can apply to your credit cards that peel off without damaging the card. You can get designs ranging from purple leopard spots to a cartoon iguana to faux wood. You can even express your views with messages like, “If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t get gay married.”
  • If you’re crafty, you can go DIY to deck out your card. This eHow.com tutorial shows how to make a credit card skin using a graphics program like Adobe Photoshop, T-shirt transfer paper, an iron and a few other tools. Be careful, though — if you turn the iron up too high, it can melt your card.

Since I’ve decided pretty plastic has its advantages, I think I’ll be ordering a few skins to dress up our debit cards.