Deserve’s New Digital First Card Offers Instant Access to Credit

Melissa LambarenaApr 30, 2021
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Deserve — the company behind the Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students — has launched a new rewards-earning credit card that's mobile-first and focused on convenience.

The new Digital First Card is a virtual product, so there no need to wait for a physical card to arrive in the mail. When you apply, you get a decision in minutes and then can instantly use the card to make purchases through Apple Pay with your phone. You can earn up to 1.5% cash back on those purchases.

As part of the launch, Deserve is also debuting the card's proprietary mobile-first platform to co-branded partners, who can use it to provide their own customized versions of the Digital First Card. Co-branded partners can change the rewards structure, underwriting and other features to fit their business model.

The baseline Digital First Card, issued by Celtic Bank, is available on Deserve’s website and accepting applications. Here’s what it offers.

Key features of Deserve's Digital First Card

The Digital First Card is currently available only to Apple users, though an Android-friendly version is in the works. The card has a $0 annual fee and can earn up to 1.5% back on purchases, in the form of statement credit — but it's more complicated and potentially less lucrative than the multitude of other credit cards that advertise a 1.5% rewards rate.

That's because, unlike those products, it's not a flat rate. Instead, there are three tiers:

  • 1% cash back: You’ll earn this rate on all purchases up to $500 spent per billing period.

  • 1.25% cash back: You’ll earn this rate on all purchases once you spend over $500 per billing period.

  • 1.5% cash back: This rate can only be earned on all purchases after spending more than $1,000 in any billing period.

The Digital First Card charges no foreign transaction fees and offers Mastercard World benefits. Deserve plans to eventually make a physical card available, as well.

The application process

To qualify for the Digital First Card, you’ll need good credit (a FICO score of 690 or higher). You can apply through Deserve's website or by downloading the Deserve Cards app through your iPhone's App Store.

You can see if you’re approved for the Digital First Card without any impact on your credit scores. Once you accept an offer for the card, though, Deserve does conduct a hard inquiry, which may cause a temporary drop in your scores.

Unlike previous cards from Deserve, this one doesn’t require you to link a bank account to qualify. You’ll have to verify your identity by providing your phone number, a photo of your driver’s license, a selfie in the app, your Social Security number and income.

If approved, you’ll be issued the digital credit card, which can be added to Apple Pay without having to leave the app.

Is it a good deal?

For those seeking expediency and convenience, it could be.

The card's primary appeal is its mobile experience. From the moment you apply for the card, it takes only five minutes to get a decision and to be able to start using it, according to Deserve CEO and co-founder Kalpesh Kapadia. Transactions also happen in real time, so you don’t have to wait for them to update in the mobile app as you might with a traditional credit card.

The Digital First Card's user interface is also robust. Your digital statement is straightforward and easy on the eyes, but it goes a step further by breaking down the amount spent with merchants over time, which can offer a more holistic view of your finances.

But for now, at least, the card's instant-use ability depends on whether or not a merchant accepts Apple Pay.

Plus, its rewards structure leaves a lot to be desired. You'll have to spend $1,000-plus per month to get a rewards rate that other 1.5% cards offer on the first dollar of spending. And those other cards are also available to those with good credit — except they tend to offer additional incentives, like sign-up bonuses and 0% intro APR periods. The Digital First Card does not.

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