Record numbers of banking executives packed a well-known resort outside Orlando in the latter half of March to swap industry gossip and to show off the latest innovations in debit and credit card products.
Under shareholder pressure to lend more money to consumers, big banks used the gathering to scout potential takeover targets. Marketing chiefs attended presentations from regional banks, retailers and credit unions, all clamoring to launch the next big personal finance trend. Based on CardRatings.com's exclusive interviews with attendees who spoke on condition of anonymity, some of this year's most promising new accounts include:
The Zirconium Card
Officials at First National Bank of Manitowoc told attendees that ads for Chase Sapphire inspired their latest product, a rewards credit card for Americans who prefer virtual luxury to the real thing. The FNBM Zirconium Card earns 100 rewards points per dollar spent on every purchase, redeemable for virtual rewards through the bank's virtual, mobile social media application.
New cardholders enjoy a 250,000 point signup bonus, enough for a series of geotagged stock images of ski resorts, Caribbean beaches, and the most recent TED conference. Cardholders can post the images to Facebook and Twitter as if they were actual vacation photos. An additional 100,000 points earns the chance to be Photoshopped into a paparazzi photo with Courtney Stodden.
The Stealth Card
Privacy experts at the Orlando forum buzzed about a new offering from Arjeta Bank. The Swiss startup recently launched the Stealth Card, an account so secure that even you, the cardholder, are not authorized to see a record of what you've spent. After each statement cycle, cardholders make indeterminate cash payments to an Arjeta customer service agent posing as an artisanal cheese vendor at the Hermosa Beach Farmers Market.
New cardholders can choose from three customizable designs, featuring skillfully etched portraits of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, former secret agent Anna Chapman, and action movie star Wesley Snipes. Made of teflon-coated gold bullion, each Stealth Card can be melted for emergency funds in the event of global economic collapse.
The Approved Card 2.0
When Suze Orman debuted the Approved Card in 2011, critics debated whether an advocate of an eight-month emergency fund could objectively market a MasterCard with a monthly fee. This year's version, the Denied Card, attempts to resolve the controversy with a decidedly innovative approach to personal finance.
The Denied Card has an unlimited spending limit and carries no fees of any kind. The catch? It automatically denies all transactions as a reminder to the cardholder to stop spending money. The card's backers hope to roll it out before the rumored appearance of the Dave Ramsey Card, which reportedly demagnetizes all credit cards within a 30-yard radius when swiped.
The Hillenbrand "One" Card
Discover reinstated its popular one-time use credit card numbers for online shoppers after customers expressed concerns about security. Hillenbrand Bank (a financial institution with little or no connection to death-care industry specialist Hillenbrand, Inc.) used a panel on loss prevention to unveil its own take on the concept: a credit card that automatically decomposes within 10 seconds of being swiped.
Environmental activists denounced the bank's initiative, citing the destruction of old-growth Yukon forest in the manufacture of the welcome packet automatically mailed by overnight courier upon each use. Bank officials countered the claim with assurances that the uranium mined for the card's dramatic security feature had rendered the forest untenable anyway.
The FICO Optimizer Card
Americans have become obsessed with maintaining good credit scores, according to presenter Annabelle Forti, marketing director for the Jonas Brothers Credit Union in suburban Phoenix. At the Orlando conference, Forti showed off a prototype of a credit card that incorporates electronic ink and 4G wireless networks. Always on, the face of the FICO Optimizer Card displays the cardholder's three FICO scores in real time for a nominal monthly fee of just $19.99.
"Our members have told us they enjoy the power to time major purchases for minimal impact to their credit scores," Forti told reporters. A lunchtime demonstration of the new technology failed to impress attendees after one cardholder held up an Arby's register for 18 minutes, waiting for his FICO score to reach 720 before swiping his Visa.
New frontiers in cybercrime awareness
New products weren't the only highlight of the week-long conference. Security specialists demonstrated a new hacking technique that revealed consumer credit card information to Ukrainian organized crime rings before card numbers had even been issued to new customers. Fortunately, most major credit card companies had already anticipated this move, announcing pre-emptive cloaking technology to prevent such data leakage.
CardRatings.com founder Curtis Arnold addressed the industry forum at a breakfast keynote, reminding attendees to look carefully at the date this article was posted.
"You've all been punk'd," Arnold gleefully announced. While the products on this page don't exist, the best credit card deals in our database can save you real money, without any fooling around.