Square has long been considered at the vanguard of digital payment innovation, so it may be a little unexpected to see the company take a step backward into physical card issuance.
Square announced Thursday that it is opening up its previously invitation-only prepaid card to all of its customers. The product is a Visa-branded card linked directly to the user’s Square account balance.
This follows recent news of Venmo, another a digital payment player, making a leap into the physical via plastic card. According to Recode, Venmo employee feeds seem to confirm the card’s impending arrival, with card-based Venmo purchases being made at fast-food chains like Chipotle and Taco Bell.
The Square Cash Card comes in black with white print, allowing cardholders to customize the front with either their own signature or a sketch of their choosing. Square seems to have a fairly high degree of leniency when it comes to designs, but does monitor for unsuitable content.
The customizable media is likely to make the card appealing to younger users, presumably as direct competition for the incoming Venmo card. Historically, other digital payment providers such as Google and PayPal have put out stored-value cards, neither of which gathered meaningful adoption.
“If you want to be top of wallet you need to be able to play both in the digital world and the physical world," said Michael Moeser, director of payments at Javelin. "Plus, since only 1 in 10 dollars are spent online, gaining physical POS dollars for digital players like Venmo and Square is pure uncharted territory.”
However, the motivation behind Square and Venmo’s plastic plays may be less about transaction volume and more about brand extension across the digital chasm, plus a playful means of getting millennials to apply for cards that they may not get to use often otherwise.