Leveraging Card Design, Digitalization and Sustainability in 2024

Card manufacturing companies can unlock new possibilities and thrive in the evolving 2024 financial landscape by staying ahead of the curve and embracing vital trends. The key to success lies in finding the right balance between the most current trends and tailoring your approach to your specific target audience and brand identity.

Abhishek Pandey, digital intelligence specialist at IDEMIA and a member of the International Card Manufacturers Association (ICMA), shares information on how the card manufacturing industry can leverage the latest trends in card design, digitization and sustainability in 2024.

Trends in Card Design, Digitization and Sustainability

Card Design

In today’s digital landscape, where various industries including banking and payments for both traditional and neo banks are swiftly moving online, companies are striving to forge and sustain strong connections with their customers. A pivotal avenue for achieving this lies in the realm of card design. 

Card designs serve as a powerful means to:

  • Establish a connection by embracing uniqueness that resonates with the customer’s lifestyle
  • Embody the bank’s brand and foster an emotional bond

These 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. This includes technologies like thermo-reactive features or captivating light effects. You also can expect to see artist/brand collaborations, for example, with limited edition cards.

Reflecting the customer’s lifestyle extends to a spectrum of options, from cards crafted using sustainable materials to premium metal cards catering to those seeking a luxurious payment experience. There’s also a growing focus on enhancing accessibility and security. This is the case in Europe, with the upcoming European Accessibility Act, as well as in other countries that also have accessibility laws in which to abide.

Payment cards featuring a notch, or a tactile effect, and even biometric payment cards, improve the payment experience of visually impaired cardholders. This diverse range of options allows banks to differentiate themselves in a competitive landscape. 

Moreover, the evolving consumer demographic, especially millennials and future spenders, favors hyper-personalization. They seek the ability to truly customize their cards, whether by incorporating personal images or selecting from an array of intriguing features. 

The unpackaging experience is also one not to forget. Many banks wish to give a special unboxing experience to their customers through unique packaging using a variety of materials and designs.

It’s important to note that card designs transcend physical cards alone and also extend to digital cards. As the financial world continues to embrace digital transformations, the fusion of aesthetic appeal and technological innovation becomes increasingly significant in captivating and retaining customers in this dynamic landscape.


The past decade has witnessed a profound shift, with digital becoming one of the major trends to answer the consumer needs including everything now, simplicity, efficiency, etc. In the realm of banking and payments, the synergy between physical and digital elements has become inseparable.

Here are some ways to bridge the gap between physical and digital payments, as well as creating:

  • Digital-first transformation in payments: Over the past decade, a significant shift toward digital-first approaches in banking and payments has emerged, blending physical and digital elements seamlessly. Innovative concepts like numberless cards and instant card issuance illustrate this shift, transforming traditional payment methods. Key advancements include real-time card generation, secure tokenized digital card journey and card integration into various digital wallets. These transformations prioritize mobile security and provide consumers with real-time control over their payment methods.
  • Digital card security and coexistence with physical cards: Digital cards fortified by tokenization offer enhanced security for users and coexist harmoniously with physical cards. While physical cards are convenient for in-store purchases, virtual cards provide added security for online transactions. Innovative features integrate the best from both realms, allowing cardholders to access sensitive card details or activate cards directly on their banking app but also save time on websites, etc.
  • Integration of cards with mobile devices: Ultimately, the goal is to seamlessly intertwine card functionality with mobile devices, making cards the phone’s companion and vice versa.
  • Rise of digital wallets: Digital wallets (e.g., Apple Pay, Google Pay) signify a broader trend toward mobile-centric experiences and account for a substantial portion of consumer spending. They dominate both in-store and online purchases, offering convenience, security and simplicity. As per Juniper research, the total transaction value of digital wallets is expected to increase from U.S. $9 trillion in 2023 to U.S. $16 trillion in 2028, growing at a rate of around 77%.
  • Simplified online payments: One-click checkout buttons, exemplified by solutions like Click to Pay, revolutionize online payment experiences by simplifying transactions. This payment method reduces the number of steps during checkout by eliminating data entries and provides fast access to users’ cards, like a mobile wallet for in-store purchases. Everything is ready to be used and offers a time-saving benefit for cardholders.


To meet increasing customer and shareholder sustainability demands, the banking sector is actively working on responsibly collecting and recycling expired credit and debit cards.

The Smart Payment Association’s 2023 report, based on online surveys and interviews with key decision-makers in 25% of Europe’s banks (with a total of more than 100 million payment cards in circulation), offers comprehensive insights into payment card collection and recycling efforts.

The main trends can be summed up in the following: 

  • 50% believe that card collection and recycling represent a strong market differentiator for their brand. 
  • 33% say payment card end-of-life management is important or crucial to their organization. 
  • 25% say their institution has a card collection and recycling program in place and a further 50% plan to introduce such a program within 24 months.

This collective industry effort not only addresses environmental concerns, but also underscores the banking sector’s commitment to corporate social responsibility. The integration of sustainable practices into card management aligns with broader global sustainability goals and contributes to a positive environmental impact.

In conclusion, the future of cards is heading toward a hybrid experience where sustainable physical cards coexist with increasingly sophisticated digital options. As designs, technology and sustainability evolve, we can expect even more exciting developments in the card manufacturing industry.

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.

Throughout the year, ICMA members have the opportunity to share insights and knowledge by giving presentations during ICMA webcasts and events. The association’s main event is its annual Card Manufacturing & Personalization EXPO. The 2024 EXPO will take place from May 13-16 in Orlando, Florida.

ICMA offers regular educational opportunities, including ACE-Manufacturing, ACE-Personalization and ACE-Advanced Technologies training and exams at the ICMA EXPO. ICMA also offers 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.