New Hybrid Credit-Debit Card Offers Elite Status, Up to 3% Cash Back

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Get Early Access to Zerocard, and Earn Elite Status for Rewards

Zerocard is a product planning to launch next year — it works like a debit card but pays up to 3% cash back. It’s an FDIC-insured bank account, with charges deducted from your balance. But it processes like a credit card so they can pay out strong cash back. And the card is all metal.

The account pays interest, allows direct deposit, bill pay and ACH and wire transfers. There are no ATM fees in-network.

  • The Durbin Amendment to Dodd Frank financial regulation destroyed debit card rewards. By capping fees for processing payments, it no longer made sense for banks to offer rich rewards for debit transaction.

  • But the Durbin Amendment did even more than this. Since debit transactions were no longer profitable for banks, checking accounts alone often weren’t either. Banks started imposing higher minimum balances to avoid monthly fees. After the law was implemented we saw a rise in the ‘unbanked’ — people without access to the banking system, who pay high fees to use shadow banking like check cashing stores.

  • American Express had what looked on paper like a brilliant play — Bluebird and Redcard products were basically debit cards with added banking features that got around Durbin Amendment limits on interchange fees. They partnered with Walmart and Target to get access to customers. And yet it didn’t take off the way Amex had hoped.

Zerocard is the new “let’s circumvent the Durbin Amendment” play — a debit card that processes as a credit card and pays up to 3% cash back. (HT: Hans Mast)

It offers cash back at four different status levels:

  • Quartz earns 1.0%
  • Graphite earns 1.5%
  • Magnesium earns 2.0%
  • Carbon earns 3.0%

Registering now for early access (just giving your email address) gives you Graphite and an easy way to start out at Carbon.

  • Share your link on social media and get 2% cash back (Magnesium). (Hint: you can post to Facebook with a setting that only you can see the post.)

  • Refer 3 people to sign up (give their email address) and 3% cash back (Carbon). This is my referral link to zerocard, feel free to leave yours in the comments.

This status lasts through the end of the year that you open your account plus the full next year.

Otherwise, your annual spend level determines your cash back percentage: $25,000 for 1.5%, $50,000 for 2%, and $100,000 for 3%.

Starting out at 3% cash back could be very lucrative, although it’s a limited audience for which it will make sense to earn lower levels of cash back through the program unless they really want their charges automatically withdrawn from their bank account (although most credit cards offer an automatic payment option).

Get Early Access to Zerocard

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.


  1. Hi- Thank you! I just signed up but how do I create the referral link? Thanks and I appreciate any help.

  2. Thanks (and good karma)to anyone willing to use my link!

    Here it is:

  3. ta-da. Durbin amendment was a big lose for people who would rather pay with their own money. My link is

  4. I was having difficulties to get it to work and found a few things to help:

    I used internet explorer to open the site:

    (Here’s my link )

    It looks like you need to add your e-mail address as well as someone else’s code in the links eg. EARLY22621

    Maybe the servers were just impacted more than they thought but figured I share what I knew.

  5. The links weren’t working for me last night (flash problem?) but I was successful using explorer/edge this morning. Please feel free to use my link too as you work your way down the line. Thank you!
    code: EARLY22876

  6. Don’t you people have any friends, or family that can send their email rather than posting it here?
    My question is how the company knows the link was posted on social media rather than just emailed to someone?

  7. This card makes little sense. All the purported “benefits” that they tout are entirely illusory. Everything is in one spot… yay! No need to pay a monthly bill… yay! But, you have to deposit money into your account in order to cover your purchasing, which is *exactly* the same thing as paying a bill. The only difference here is that you’re not exposed to potential finance charges. But, if you pay your bill every month (which you should be doing), then this is no benefit at all. The spending requirements required to beat readily available cards right now are outrageous, and they will leave your awards accrual well behind what you’d get with those cards. And, in the event of problems (like theft or disputes with merchants), it is *your* money on the line. While you wait for someone to make a decision about a charge with a shady online merchant… that’s *your* money, rather than a bank’s money, that is held hostage out there in the cloud. And, this little startup… what if they go belly-up in six months?

    I’ll stick with my Double Cash and make 2% on every single dollar, without having to act as a marketing agent for the card company.

  8. Yeah, seriously. Read the early access FAQ before blindly signing up like a lemming. Just sharing a referral link gets you *nothing.* The front-end language all just refers to referring people “to sign up,” which sounds like just sharing gets you level-up opportunity. But, look at the early-access FAQ, and it’s clear that you can “level up faster if [you] successfully invite friends to also sign up.” If people don’t actually get the card with your link, you get nothing, and you just sit at 1%. You have to constantly work on their behalf to get new customers for them in order to level up. (Think about that math… you need three sign-ups to get your higher earn, so does everyone else… every year… ).

    This card is dumb.

  9. Just get an Alliant cash back card. 3% the first year, 2.5% from then on. Easy as pie. I learned about this originally on a blog post, but they must not give any referral bonus because none of the bloggers mention it anymore.

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