Credit Card Trends to Look for in 2021

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The world of January 2021 is markedly different than January 2020. We now live in a post-Covid world, full of uncertainty, confusion, and economic turmoil. Fortunately, there is some sun on the horizon – especially when it comes to the economy. Here are four of the biggest credit card trends to look out for in 2021.

2021’s Top Credit Card Trends

1.      Greater Emphasis on Contactless Payments

Perhaps the biggest trend for 2021 will be the continued rollout of contactless payment options. At the start of 2020, U.S. adoption of contactless payment methods, including tap-to-pay, considerably lagged behind other nations – especially those in Europe.

The coronavirus pandemic, however, changed that almost overnight. By May, over 78% of consumers stated they favored greater access to contactless payments. By the end of 2020, contactless payment integration was much more common amongst new credit cards than just six months prior.

Expect increased credit card integration into mobile payment platforms like Google Pay, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and PayPal in 2021. Also, expect more cards to be issued with EMV chips and tap-to-pay capabilities, further lowering the risk of bacterial and viral contamination – as well as increasing ID theft protection.

Related Article: Best Contactless Payment Credit Cards

2.      The “Alternative” Will Become the Norm

Alternative underwriting of credit card applications became an increasingly popular trend amongst fintech and startups in the last few years. Cards like the Petal Card, Deserve EDU, Avant Card, and the Upgrade Visa Card with Cash Rewards have helped place greater emphasis on the earning potential, employment history, and other factors over an applicant’s FICO credit score.

As these alternative credit approval techniques gain wider acceptance, expect consumer access to new credit cards to grow in 2021. A steadily increasing consumer confidence will likely spur on this growth – provided the coronavirus vaccines prove useful.

3.      Greater Competition Amongst Card Issuers

An increase in consumer confidence means greater access to new credit and an increase in competition between banks. Both trends are good news for consumers.

Greater competition means consumers can anticipate better interest rates, better rewards, and more generous credit limits. Expect this contest to cover all credit scores – not just those with excellent credit.

Subprime credit was an area of significant growth in 2020, with more Americans seeking to raise their credit scores in the early months of last year. Even as the coronavirus’s economic pinch hit the economy hardest, these cards and their issuers weathered the storm, thanks to lower credit limits and security deposits – and thus less risk to lenders.

Expect this niche to continue to develop in 2021, with more issuers seeking to steer applicants to their products versus those of competitors.

4.      Better Rewards for More Consumers

Part of the aforementioned competition will take the form of better rewards for lower credit scores. An increase in competition from banks means better rewards more for American consumers. While credit card rewards were once the reserve of those with good credit scores, now rewards are trickling down to more credit profiles.

Cards like the Mercury Mastercard, Jasper Mastercard, Deserve EDU, and more are opening up cash back rewards for those with limited credit histories. Because of ever-increasing competition in the subprime credit marketplace, expect these trends to continue to evolve over 2021.

Related Article: Mastercard Report Shows Holiday Shopping Trends

Featured photo by Mohammad Hassan / PixaBay

About: Cory
Cory Santos

Cory is's "Jack of all trades" and resident credit expert, covering all facets of the credit card space. Cory holds academic degrees in both the U.S. and U.K. In addition to credit cards, Cory finds that jogging, cats, and memes are essential parts of a balanced day.

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