Why I’m passing on Zerocard, but it might be right for you

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In 2016 I wrote about this hybrid debit/credit card named Zerocard from a company named Zero. “Zero” refers to the card’s lack of fees.  Zero says that it’s possible to earn up to 3% cash back for all purchases.  So, I responded with : How to play the Zerocard game.

In 2016, Zerocard existed only as a website and a waiting list.  I signed up for the waiting list and basically forgot about it.  Then, on November 16 2018, they finally announced the launch: Zero Launches Today.

Recently, I was invited to apply:

Currently requires iPhone

Apparently an Android version is in the works.

Up to 3% rewards plus interest

Zerocard is really two things: a credit card and an interest earning checking account.  Zero says that these two things can be configured to work together to provide an experience like a debit card, but with best in class rewards.  I believe this means that Zerocard can be configured to be tied to the checking account like a debit card.  In other words:

  • You can use the credit card for ATM withdrawals and your money will be withdrawn from your checking account without any cash advance fees.
  • Your spending limit will be tied to funds available in your checking account.
  • Funds in your checking account earn interest “up to 1.75% annually on average Current Position” (I’ll update this once a reader explains what this means)
  • Purchases made with the credit card earn cash back rewards.

Zerocard offers four levels of rewards for spend:

  • Quartz level: 1% cash back
  • Graphite level: 1.5% cash back (requires $25K spend or 1 friend referral per year)
  • Magnesium level: 2% cash back (requires $50K spend or 2 friend referrals per year)
  • Carbon level: 3% cash back (requires $100K or 4 friend referrals per year)

Once you reach a reward level, you keep that level for the rest of the current calendar year and all of the next year.

Ideal for keeping spend in-check

I know some people who stick with debit cards because they know they can’t trust themselves with credit cards.  If that’s you, then Zerocard appears to be a great opportunity to continue to force that discipline while also earning rewards on spend.  And if you can convince friends to do the same, you’ll earn higher rewards after successful referrals.

Ideal for bloggers

Anyone with a decent sized readership should be able to successfully refer 4 friends per year without much effort.  This means that you can have a 3% cash back card with no annual fee.

Not ideal for business spend or manufactured spend

This card may appear attractive if you spend a lot on your business, or if you increase spend for rewards through manufactured spending techniques.  It looks like your account will be shut down if you do either.  This is from the Zerocard FAQ:

Does Zero still pay up to 3.0% cash back if I use my card for business-purposes or spend millions per year?

Zerocard is designed for personal and household use. We use automated techniques to identify and flag patterns inconsistent with personal use and reserve the right to close accounts in such cases. Please refer to the Zerocard Agreement for more details.

Not for me.  Not now.

I have no doubt it would be easy for me to refer 4 friends a year in order to keep 3% rewards.  But, just recently I signed up for the Bank of America Premium Rewards card which earns 2.62% back everywhere since I have Platinum Honors status with BOA’s Preferred Rewards program.  See: On my mind (wife’s wallet edition).

With Zerocard I would earn 0.38% more cash back over my Premium Rewards card.  If I were to spend $20K per year on the Zerocard at 3% cash back I’d clear a whopping $76 extra compared to the BOA card.  Keep in mind that I have lots of cards that earn more than 3% cash back within specific categories of spend, so a big portion of my organic spend goes to those cards.  And since I wouldn’t be able to manufacture spend with Zerocard, I think that $20K per year may be an over-estimate of the amount that would go on this card.

So, even though Zerocard appears to be a winner for me (as a blogger), I’m going to pass on it for now for these reasons:

  • Zerocard would add some complication to my life since I’m not willing to abandon my other cards and bank accounts.  This is ironic since one of the best things about Zerocard is that it can really simplify your life if you’re willing to go all-in with it.
  • I’d be worried about Zerocard shutting down my account for business spend or manufactured spend.
  • Even though I think it would be easy to refer four friends per year, I don’t really want to beg people to sign up.

Conclusion

Zerocard looks like it could be a fantastic product, especially for those who value its debit-like features.  Personally, I’m going to pass on it right now for reasons listed above, but that doesn’t mean it’s not for you.  If you’re interested, I recommend reading Zero’s original blog post about the card.  See also my original post about the card here: How to play the Zerocard game.

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