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So are you planning on getting the new talking credit card, Visa Voice?
Actually, there's no such thing, but for a few seconds, before I realized I had stumbled onto the satirical fake news website, The Onion, I completely bought into its fake press release.
The Onion "reported" that Visa held a press event earlier this week to introduce "Visa Voice," a new series of credit cards that talk to the cardholder. They quoted Visa president John Partridge (a real person) saying, "Whenever you're near an item you're hesitant to purchase, Visa Voice offers words of encouragement, such as 'Come on, just go for it!' and 'Trust me -- you're not gonna regret this."
If the cardholder didn't make a purchase, The Onion went on to say, the card would start whispering, "You know you want it."
Almost too close to home, it was this hilarious faux news item on The Onion that got me thinking that the humorists there might actually be on to something. Why? Because with some talking phones already possessing the capability to double as a credit card, and cardholders increasingly using mobile devices to make purchases, it probably won't be too much longer before our credit cards do actually start talking to us.
So to take The Onion's idea a little further, here are some of my ideas for what our credit cards could start helping us with in the future. Credit card technology innovators, take note.
Credit cards that offer financial advice
Say you're about to buy something big, like a 65-inch 3D plasma TV. Wouldn't it be nice to have a credit card that could advise you on how much it'll cost you if you take 6 or 12 months to pay it off? Yes, I know there are old-fashioned devices like calculators that can help you figure that out, but if it's an impulse buy, it's unlikely you're going to do something responsible like that.
But what if you're paying with the Sage from Chase card? Your credit card could point out the true cost of paying for that TV over time, or perhaps offer context-sensitive voice prompts like: "You might want to consider buying the 51-inch TV over there that's $700 less. It's a smaller TV, but it would still transform your living room into an impressive home theater."
Credit cards that help you shop smarter
Mark my words. One of these days, your Insider by Discover Card will cheerfully tell you, "We're running a promotion in three weeks where you get triple reward points on buying groceries, so you may want to wait until next month to really stock up."
Credit cards that tell you when you're about to max out
It's going to happen someday. You'll wave your Citi Headroom Card in front of an item to see its cost, and you'll hear a voice that will say, "Dude, are you kidding? You're six dollars from going over your credit limit." Of course, you'll want to have your volume on low, otherwise you could end up sharing your financial woes with half the store.
Credit cards that remind you when payment is due
Yeah, that's what calendars are for, but with the melding of credit cards and phones that talk, the technology is already in place. But, of course, right now, you still have to prompt your phone to prompt you when your bill is going to be due. I'm thinking it would be nice for your Tickler Card from American Express to speak up on its own, and let you know on, say the 22nd or 23rd, "Hey, your bill is due at 5 p.m. on the 24th."
The future of credit cards
Far-fetched? I think it's actually quite likely that someday we will engage in conversation with our credit cards. After all, bank executives may enjoy seeing their profits rise from late fees and higher interest rates, but they also want customers who are happy with their credit cards and thus, continue to use and spend on them.
The Onion may have been kidding about Visa Voice, but I'm not. Consumer loyalty is a challenge for corporations and marketers these days, and credit cards that act like an ally and confidant might be the way to get cardholders to stick around and not look for some other shiny plastic new pal.
Note: All credit cards mentioned on this page are fictitious and presented for entertainment purposes only.