4 Credit Cards That Are Changing the Game

Point of Interest

Innovative credit card startups are challenging the status quo to persuade Millennials and Gen Z to leave traditional cards behind.

The credit card industry is massive: roughly 183 million Americans have credit cards, and general purpose cards such as Visa, MasterCard and Discover can be found in 70.2% of all American households, according to 2010 Census Bureau data.

However, that hasn’t stopped startups from shaking things up. 

These four credit card startups all market themselves as a better alternative for consumers, particularly Millennials and Gen Z, by eliminating extra fees that traditionally come with a credit card and offering easy-to-use apps.


Founded in 2015, Petal started with a singular goal in mind — to help anyone looking to establish or build their credit.

Petal’s technology takes your full financial picture into account even if you don’t have a credit score — it’s what allows Petal to provide access to a high limit, cash back credit card with no fees whatsoever, even as your first card.

“We attract a lot of first time credit users, as well as many others establishing credit that are seeking a better experience,” Petal CEO Jason Gross said. “Many people just like the fact that we treat them like a human being and not a number.”

In addition, Petal’s mobile app comes with features designed to help you manage your money and build credit history responsibly. 

“The cool thing about a technology company designing a credit card (not a traditional bank), is that the product keeps getting better and better,” Gross said. “Most recently, we’ve launched budgeting, money insights, and subscription management tools.”

Apple Card

As one of the largest, most innovative companies in the world, it’s no surprise that Apple wiggled its way into the credit card space. The Apple Card set the tone for innovators in the industry, as it was a truly unprecedented move. Within a year of launch, Forbes reports roughly 3.1 million Americans — nearly 2% of the U.S. population with a credit card — have the Apple Card, according to Cornerstone Advisors’ research. Despite criticism of the card’s cash back rates, the low-cost card has seen some early success and incentivizes its customers with better rewards through Apple Pay.

Nova Credit

All newcomers to the U.S. are considered “credit invisible” upon arrival because American underwriters can’t access international credit data, but that’s where Nova Credit has stepped in with a solution.

Foreign nationals may have extensive credit in their home countries, but they still typically have to build their U.S. credit history from scratch, which can take as long as five years.

Nova Credit provides value by being a “cross-border bureau” and translating international credit data into a U.S.-equivalent score. The company then reports the translated data to American underwriters, who use it to evaluate applications for credit.

“Through Nova Credit and its partners, newcomers from certain countries can be approved almost instantly for products in the U.S. using their international credit history,” said a Nova Credit spokesperson. “That solution is first-of-its kind.”

Upgrade Card

The Upgrade Card is a fairly new credit product that launched last October and stands out for a number of reasons —  the first is that it combines the flexibility of a credit card with the low cost of a personal loan.

Instead of paying a minimum amount of your balance each month, Upgrade separates the balance into equal monthly installment plans (plus an interest fee) that can be paid between a year to three years. 

You can prepay your balance at any time with no penalty, as the ultimate goal of this card is to bring your balance down faster with less interest. However, cardholders only receive 1% cash back rate each time they pay their balance and the annual percentage rate is similar to most credit cards (ranging from 6.49% to 29.99% based on your creditworthiness). 

“Upgrade customers are paying almost seven times less interest on an Upgrade Card balance paid down over two years than they would by making the monthly minimum payment on a traditional credit card,” Renaud Laplanche, Upgrade CEO and co-founder, said in a press release.


Alex Gailey

Financial Reporter

Alex Gailey is a financial reporter at Interest.com who specializes in banking, deposits, mortgages and personal finance. Her writing has been featured in Yahoo Finance, MSN, Atlanta Business Journal, Charlotte Business Journal, The Boston Globe, The Simple Dollar and elsewhere.