It’s not explicitly a design problem, but since I have something of a soap box, I’m just going to use it: I’d do most anything to lighten the load of extraneous crap stuffed inside my wallet — not the dollar bills, of course, but rather the various faux credit cards that have instantiated themselves in my billfold. I carry a few proper credit cards — one personal card, a debit card, and two issued to me by the Times — but I’m also burdened by lots of cards foisted on me by marketers: stored value cards that act more or less like gift certificates, and membership cards — to museums, to professional groups, to my local video store — that try to impart a greater sense of worth than the membership itself probably deserves.
Add to that a handful of business cards, my subway fare card, a map of the New York City subway system, my driver’s license, health insurance card, and some wallet-size photographs carried for posterity, and the wallet is already three-quarters of an inch thick — and that’s before I add a single dollar bill, even. It’s a constant annoyance.
Store All Your Value in One Place
If design isn’t the answer, then there’s a business solution in here somewhere. There’s plenty of money in stored value cards, to be sure, but what if there was a business service to consolidate all of those value cards in a single card? I’d gladly pay two and a half percent of the value of the various stored value cards I have stashed in my wallet to, say, MasterCard if doing so would relieve me of the duty of carrying them around with me on the off chance I’m close to a store that issued one of them and I have a need to purchase something. So that if I needed a new soap dish from Bed, Bath & Beyond, for example, I would swipe my MasterCard at the register and MasterCard would debit any stored value I have with that vendor before charging against my credit. Wouldn’t that be easy?
It would also encourage more impulsive sales, I’m sure; when the money that your grandmother gave you is bundled in and essentially indistinguishable from the money in your MasterCard line of credit, I’m willing to bet you’re more likely to spend freely, probably more than you would have had you had a card in your hand that you knew was limited to US$20. This would probably (hopefully?) make up for the revenue that vendors derive from absent-minded customers losing their cards and never spending that money they’ve been given. And, of course, the vendors can continue to skim interest off the unused funds, too.
I’m no financial engineer, obviously; I’m just a guy who wants a lighter wallet. Consolidating stored value cards is one possible solution — I’m not going to hold my breath for it. Another would be to start printing these cards, which in many cases don’t need to have the thickness and heft of a credit card, on thinner plastic stock, something akin to that used for New York City’s MetroCards. And, without getting into the merits or dangers of a national identity card, it would be great to consolidate my health insurance information and driver’s license on one card, too. Anything to make life a little simpler.