Update: Venmo responded and said this design isn't meant for general release...see below for more information.
After Square unveiled a free debit card that would be tied to their Square Cash App, it was only a matter of time until we saw Venmo do something similar.
Now TechCrunch has learned that Venmo is inviting some users to a beta program where they'll be sent a card for free that is attached to their Venmo account. Users can pay with this card in stores and online just like a normal debit card -- and the money spent will be debited from their Venmo balance.
Venmo confirmed the test, telling TechCrunch: "We have started sending a limited number of beta invitations to test a physical Venmo card to some of our users. While we’re excited to hear what people think, beta features are not guaranteed to see general release".
A June report from Recode noted that the debit card was being tested by company employees, but now the card is being offered to normal users as part of a beta program.
If you're eligible to receive a card, a prompt should show at the top of your Venmo feed when you open the app.
The sign-up process seems straightforward -- like Square's Cash card there is no fee, and besides verifying their identity, users simply have to select a backup reload method (i.e. your bank account) that will be used if your Venmo balance doesn't cover a purchase you make with their card.
One downside -- the card design is really, really ugly. It's literally a picture of a ball of pizza dough with some white flour sprinkled on top.
When asked if this was the final card design. Venmo said: "this design is meant to be tongue in cheek for people participating in the beta, not a final design for general release."
While I'm happy that a picture of pizza dough won't be in the wallets of millions of users, I'm not totally convinced that Venno never planned to ship this card. "Tongue in cheek" jokes are what you distribute to employees. Companies don't ship product to users, even in beta form, unless they think users will enjoy them.
Now, I understand that worrying about how your credit card looks is a total First World problem. But when your biggest competitor issues a sleek all-black card that could be totally customized with a drawn-on screen design, like a Twitter handle or signature, you should probably offer something cooler than a ball of powdery dough.
Like it or not, Venmo's target user group (myself included) cares what their credit cards look like. And while everyone knows that metal cards are currently all the rage, I'm here to tell you that dough cards (and yes, we get the pun) are very much not.
Assuming there are no issues, this offering should roll out pretty quickly to more users. After all, the concept is a win-win situation -- users can use the card to spend their money in stores or online without waiting for funds to transfer to their bank account. And the payment apps generate interest revenue from users leaving their funds in the app for longer, and also generate a small amount of revenue in merchant fees when the cards are used to shop.
The cards are Visa Debit cards issued by Metropolitan Commercial bank via Shift Financial, a YC-backed company that provides physical and virtual debit cards to payment providers.