2024 Card Manufacturing Industry Outlook: A Guide to the Future

The card manufacturing industry outlook for 2024 is one of opportunity. Despite some headwinds leading into the year resulting from 2023’s softer-than-expected card production trends and constrained consumer spending, developments in the following areas will offer card manufacturers new avenues for innovation and differentiation:

  • Sustainable materials and practices
  • High-quality and customer-focused products
  • Personalization technologies
  • Cutting-edge digital technologies
  • Creative and distinctive designs
  • Enhanced security features
  • Unique and tailored customer experiences
  • Secure, sustainable and tech-enabled products

The International Card Manufacturers Association (ICMA) members listed below share their views on the 2024 card manufacturing industry outlook:

What is the State of the Card Manufacturing Industry Heading into 2024?

Lowe: We remain confident in the long-term health of the payment card market. Large issuers also continue to report strength in their card programs backed by the increasing consumer preference for cards over cash. We know that consumers want options in the way they pay, but still prefer a physical card as their primary method of payment when presented with a choice, so it’s beneficial to offer digital options that are complementary to a physical card.

Pandey: The physical card remains crucial, despite the world’s increasing digitization. Both traditional banks and fintech companies seek ways to uphold a tangible connection with their customers. Consequently, the card manufacturing industry retains significant strength as of 2024.

There’s a rising demand for innovative designs and features to cater to diverse consumer needs. Therefore, it’s imperative for the card manufacturing industry to continuously innovate design and manufacturing capabilities. This requires an exceptionally skilled workforce capable of meeting various design specifications and technological advancements. 

Scala: The card manufacturing industry is witnessing a pivotal shift. Environmental concerns are driving the industry toward sustainable practices, our customers are looking at reducing costs, reducing inventory, simplifying their card package, while the consumer preferences continue to evolve, demanding unique and innovative designs.

What Manufacturing Trends Do You Expect to See in 2024?

Lowe: For card manufacturers, innovative, high-quality products and services backed by a strong customer focus will remain key for 2024. Manufacturers who are willing to invest in capabilities and produce secure, sustainable and tech-enabled products will continue to present compelling solutions for the industry. Manufacturers should remain focused on the growing preference for dual interface cards as well as products that incorporate metal and ecofriendly materials.

Pandey: Card design, digitalization, sustainability and enhanced end-user services will all have their own place in 2024. Designs can encompass many innovative elements that stand out from the crowd—from the physical structure of the card to embedded features and creative use of colors, including technologies like thermo-reactive features or captivating light effects. We can also expect to see artist/brand collaborations, for example, with limited edition cards.

Over the past decade, there’s been a significant shift toward digital-first approaches in banking. Payments have emerged, blending physical and digital elements seamlessly. To meet increasing customer and shareholder sustainability demands, the banking sector is actively working on responsibly collecting and recycling expired credit and debit cards.

Skala: The card manufacturing industry is enthusiastically adopting sustainable materials. There’s a significant move toward biodegradable plastics and recycled paper. However, a primary concern is maintaining the durability and functionality of cards while using eco-friendly materials. This shift also drives the demand for greater transparency in materials, supply-chain and production, which is overall positive for those who want to drive real changes and do good for the environment.

How Can Card Manufacturers Best Respond to These Trends?

Lowe: Manufacturers should be focused on meeting consumers where they are along the widening spectrum of payment preferences. Focusing on innovative card-body materials like metals and eco-focused alternatives to first-use PVC can help issuers differentiate themselves for end users.

Also, building strong customer relationships and helping those customers meet the ever-expanding expectations of their cardholders remain key priorities, whether through personalization, instant issuance or new innovative technologies.

Pandey: Embrace and incorporate cutting-edge technologies to enhance security and keep up with the demand for more sophisticated payment solutions. To respond to the growing emphasis on sustainability, explore eco-friendly materials and manufacturing processes. With the increasing concern for cybersecurity, focus on implementing robust security measures in payment cards.

Recognize the trend toward personalized and customizable products by offering options for users to personalize the design and features of their payment cards. This provides a unique and tailored experience.

Prioritize user experience by focusing on intuitive and user-friendly card designs. Look at digital-first solutions and find ways to blend physical and digital elements through innovative concepts. Finally, enhance the end-to-end card issuance and cardholder experience with offerings to provide real-time notifications from their banks, accessing and sending data from their card to NFC-enabled mobile devices, receiving a pin number, tracking the delivery of a new card, and more.

Skala: Banks and issuers are responding by exploring new materials, design technologies and digital services that elevate the customer experience. They’re also focusing on bespoke onboarding processes that cater to the unique needs and preferences of premium clients, ensuring that every touchpoint reflects the exclusivity of the product.

This shift signifies a broader transformation in the banking industry, where the value proposition of premium cards is increasingly defined by a holistic, customized and phygital experience.

In closing, by staying apprised of trends and challenges, card manufacturers can make informed decisions and position themselves for success in 2024 and beyond.

Do You Want More Insights on Card Industry Trends?

For more than 30 years, ICMA has represented the interests of the card manufacturing industry—which includes manufacturers, personalizers, issuers and suppliers—as its leading global association.

In response to consumer and card issuer demand for green transaction and identification cards, the ICMA EcoLabel Standard Program provides a determination of the environmental performance of a manufacturer’s cards through a third-party ecolabeling certification program. Manufacturers can become EcoLabel Program licensees to showcase their support of sustainability initiatives. Licensees can also offer clients a valuable EcoLabel opportunity for cards that meet established criteria in the following categories: reduced materials, recycled content, compostable and biobased content.

ICMA offers regular educational opportunities, including ACE-Manufacturing, ACE-Personalization and ACE-Advanced Technologies trainings and exams at the ICMA EXPO. ICMA also offers virtual ACE-Commercial training, which provides sales, marketing, customer service and other key personnel at ICMA member companies with the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of card manufacturing.

Learn more about the benefits of ICMA membership.