Magnises Card: Designed for the Kids at the Cool Table

No longer available, Magnises was supposed to double as a payment card and an exclusive membership card.
Lindsay Konsko
By Lindsay Konsko 

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Update Jan. 17, 2019: The Magnises card is no longer available. Billy McFarland, the founder of Magnises, pleaded guilty in 2018 to fraud charges stemming from a failed music festival he organized in the Bahamas and was sentenced to six years in prison. Documentaries about the festival revived interest in Magnises. Below is NerdWallet's story from 2014 about the Magnises card.

Do you relish the idea of running in an exclusive social group? Is it essential to you that every item you own double as a status symbol? Most important: Are you a stylish and sophisticated young adult living in New York City?

If you answered "yes" to these questions, then the Magnises card might appeal to you. Dig into the details below. If you answered "no," the information is still worth a look. You might find it entertaining at what you find.

What is the Magnises card?

The Magnises card is the pet project of Billy McFarland, a twentysomething college dropout from New Jersey. In 2013, he and a group of friends were discussing how exhilarating it would feel to carry a certain exclusive credit card, but recognized they’d have to wait a while to achieve the requisite income and status the card’s issuer demands.

Inspired, McFarland set about creating a flashy card that he and his young friends could access right away. The Magnises card hit the market shortly thereafter. What do you get with the Magnises card? If you’re accepted (more on that in a minute), a $250 annual fee will get you:

  • A black metal card you can use to make purchases

  • Access to the Magnises townhouse, where you can hang out with fellow cardholders

  • Restaurant, shopping and hotel perks at prime New York City venues

  • Access to private drivers

  • Access and recommendations to exclusive New York City bars and clubs

  • Invitations to private events hosted by Magnises

Wondering where the card’s name comes from? McFarland explained to the New York Post:

“Magnises is Latin for absolutely nothing. … The name is made up, but it sounds grand, doesn’t it?”

Magnises isn’t exactly a credit card

The Magnises card sounds like some of the other elite credit cards out there. Just one thing, though: The Magnises card isn’t exactly a credit card.

The Magnises card isn’t tied to an issuing bank, nor does it operate on any of the major credit card networks. It’s simply a stand-in for your normal credit card; you copy your usual card’s information onto the Magnises card and can then use it anywhere that accepts credit cards.

Consequently, you can essentially choose any credit card that fits your lifestyle, transfer it onto the Magnises card and hit the town.

You have to be 'cool enough' to qualify

Magnises isn’t a conventional credit card, and the process of applying and qualifying for the card is equally unconventional. Although you are asked to state your annual income and occupation, most traditional credit card application inquiries are omitted.

The Magnises team is more interested in your answers to some unexpected questions, which you fill in on a short online form. For example:

  • What do you like to do for fun in NYC?

  • What are your favorite restaurants in NYC?

  • What are your favorite places to shop in NYC?

If the Magnises team likes your initial application, you move on to step two of the acceptance process, which is a phone interview. An article in the New York Times about the Magnises card explained:

“The vetting process could be likened to a fraternity or sorority week. … The final decision, Mr. McFarland said, is based on whether the rest of the group thinks you are cool enough.”

Although McFarland backpedaled on that statement, it’s clear that Magnises wants to keep membership limited to a small, ultra-hip crowd.

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