What Is Cardless, and Are Its Credit Cards Right for You?
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Cardless is a credit card provider to individual brands, first earning a foothold in creating cards for professional sports teams, such as the Boston Celtics basketball team and soccer's Manchester United.
The San Francisco-based company was founded in 2019. Its cards are issued through FDIC-insured First Electronic Bank in Salt Lake City.
Despite its name, Cardless issues physical Mastercard credit cards, albeit without card numbers printed on them.
The company, as of this writing, has partnered with Major League Baseball's Miami Marlins, international soccer teams Manchester United and Liverpool F.C., and NBA basketball teams the Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics and New Orleans Pelicans. It also launched two co-branded cards with LATAM Airlines, a South American carrier. And most recently Cardless debuted a co-branded card in partnership with mall company Simon Property Group and American Express.
So Cardless is a legitimate company and is safe to consider doing business with. That doesn’t mean all of its products, or those of its brand partners, will be right for you, or that you’ll have a good experience.
For brands, Cardless touts its cards as a quick way to launch a credit card and build loyalty and engagement with customers — or fans, in the case of sports teams.
For consumers, Cardless offers familiar credit card features and reward structures, along with perks specific to the brand, like experiences with the team, autographed memorabilia or discounts at the sports arena.
Are Cardless credit cards good?
If its first several cards are an indication, Cardless tends to offer generally consumer-friendly terms:
Light on fees
No annual fee.
No late fees.
No foreign transaction fees.
With all rewards-earning credit cards, sign-up bonuses tend to change frequently over time. On Cardless' initial products, sign-up bonuses have ranged as high as 30,000 points (worth at least $300 in statement credits and other rewards) after spending $2,000 in three months. That kind of required spending is high, but if you can meet it, a $300 sign-up bonus on a no-fee card is more than many of the popular mass-market cards offer. Cardless says those points could be worth more if you use them for something besides statement credits.
More recently, though, bonuses on Cardless products have taken a significant dip. As of August 2022, for example, its co-branded sports cards were offering only 5,000 points (worth at least $50 in statement credits and other rewards) after spending $500 in three months. That's a much lower required spending threshold, but also a much lower bonus that can be beaten out by any number of mass-market cards.
What sets these cards apart are perks that might entice fans of a particular brand or sports team. Examples as of this writing:
The Miami Marlins card offers 5% off at retailers and concessions at its home baseball ballpark and 5 points per dollar spent on Marlins tickets purchased through MLB.com.
The Manchester United card offers 10% off at the official Manchester United Megastore, Red Cafe and United Direct.
The Boston Celtics card offers 20% off purchases at the online Celtics shop and 7 points per dollar spent on qualifying Celtics tickets.
Rewards on everyday spending
Besides brand-specific rewards, each card offers elevated rewards on some kind of everyday spending. Examples as of this writing:
The Miami Marlins card offers triple points on bars and restaurants.
The Manchester United card offers 2 points per dollar spent on select rideshare and streaming services.
Solid point values
Points can be redeemed for statement credits at a rate of 1 cent per point. But as noted above, you might get more value per point if you choose other redemption options.
Cardless also lets you spend points on brand-specific purchases, such as game tickets, player-signed jerseys and exclusive experiences.
Gift cards are also a redemption option.
The Cardless cards have a digital bent, offering a mobile app that provides instant access to a virtual card number and mobile wallet card upon account approval.
But you also get a numberless physical credit card, which Cardless says offers enhanced security and fraud protections. Despite the Cardless company name, it issues a physical card to use at merchants that can’t accept digital-only transactions.
Cardless says it approves applicants "across the credit spectrum from subprime to superprime," adding it uses an internally developed risk model. It says it will continue to expand its approval process with alternative data sources in the future.
Who would benefit from a Cardless credit card?
Whether a Cardless credit card is good depends on the terms of the specific card and the cardholder.
But after its first few card launches, signs are positive that Cardless is offering value for customers of sports teams.
However, as with any credit card, Cardless products don’t have everything. For example, the company's first few cards didn’t offer an option for a balance transfer or an intro 0% APR offer on new purchases. And interest charges can be high, as is the penalty APR if you pay late.
The cards also don’t offer cash advances, which are best avoided but still generally an emergency option with cards from larger and more established issuers.
Overall, if you won’t use rewards from its partner sports teams, the rest of the rewards are just OK. But if you want the team’s logo on a physical card and can take advantage of brand-specific perks, Cardless credit cards are worth considering.
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