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The X1 credit card moves from waitlist to reality

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The X1 Card, which opened its waitlist last fall, has finally begun approving applications. The card touts itself as a “smart” credit card with features you’d expect from a fintech startup catering to a millennial market: stainless steel metallic design, nontraditional ways to set credit limits and plenty of opportunities to earn rewards.

Plus, it doesn’t hurt that some of its high-profile backers, like Jared Leto, will likely ensure the card’s sustained popularity and the company’s ability to earn and raise money for years to come.

Despite the buzz the X1 Card has generated over the last year, you still need to know if this rewards credit card is practical for your needs. That is, what features and offerings would make this the best credit card for your spending habits? Here’s more information regarding what you can expect with this card and if you should apply for it.

What does the X1 Card offer?

Card details:

  • Rewards rate: 2X points on all purchases; 3X points on all purchases if you spend more than $15,000 in a year; 4X points for 30 days for every approved referral who gets the X1 Card; up to 10X points for select brands when shopping in the X1 app
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 12.75 percent to 19.75 percent variable APR

Application process: Higher credit limits, no hard pull and immediate use

Perhaps one of the most intriguing features of the card is the way it screens and approves applicants. There’s only a soft credit inquiry, and the approval algorithm is based largely on your annual income, not just your credit score. According to the issuer, this means that card applicants could get up to five times the credit limit they would get from a credit card using a more traditional formula for setting credit limits.

Even if you earn a large amount of your income through business holdings, rental income, dividends or other non-salaried sources, there’s a good chance that X1 will still approve your application, and you’ll qualify for a higher credit limit based on that income. During the digital application process, you can connect a bank account for income verification, giving you a better chance of getting a higher credit limit.

Finally, if you are approved for the card immediately, you’ll get a virtual card number that you can start using right away. You can use the card number online or add it to a digital wallet to jump-start your rewards earning escapades.

Earning rewards

Another standout feature of this “smart card” is the generous reward structure. You can earn 2X on all purchases to start. Then, there are opportunities to boost your earnings by meeting the $15,000 annual spending requirement, which will retroactively give you 3X points on all your purchases for the year.

Finally, if you refer people and they end up getting the X1 Card, you can earn 4X points on purchases for 30 days. When you refer family and friends, they skip the X1 waitlist.

At times, X1 will offer other opportunities to boost rewards earnings based on certain spending categories, merchants or other account activity. Cardholders will see updates on boosted earning opportunities in the X1 credit card app.

There is no limit on how many points you can earn, and rewards do not expire. If your account becomes delinquent, X1 may claw back points and prevent you from earning points on future purchases until your account becomes current.

Redeeming rewards

Reward points may be converted and applied to purchases you make from X1 rewards partners. Unless otherwise noted, rewards points are worth $0.01 in statement credit. So 100 points would equal $1.

Points values for other redemption options, like cash back, may be less than this. To redeem points, you have to download and install the latest version of the X1 app on your mobile device.

The list of redemption partners covers many popular brands that span across categories such as tech, fitness, retail and travel. Here’s a sampling of those partners:

  • Adidas
  • Airbnb
  • Nintendo
  • Bose
  • Apple
  • Etsy
  • Ikea
  • Southwest

What else should I know about the X1 credit card?

Technology integration

The X1 Card has a tight integration with its mobile app for account management and communication. Everything from the application process to redeeming points and accessing card notifications is handled directly in the X1 app.

Another useful feature is the versatility of X1’s take on virtual credit card numbers. This feature has some anti-fraud potential and enables cardholders to have more control over spending on the card:

  • End free trials automatically with auto-expiring virtual cards
  • Cancel subscription payments in one click
  • Spend anonymously without disclosing personal information
  • Create virtual cards for one-time use

Metal form factor

The rise in popularity of metal cards makes the sleek, stylish card footprint a draw for many in the high-earning, millennial camp of professionals this card markets to. The stainless steel aesthetic and hefty weight of 17 grams puts it at the heavier end of the increasing array of metal credit cards.

Additional card perks and benefits

The X1 Card is part of the Visa Signature network, which comes with many benefits, including:

  • Auto rental collision damage waiver
  • Travel and emergency assistance
  • Extended warranty protection
  • Travel benefits like concierge service and special guest status at Visa Luxury Hotel Collection properties
  • Trip cancellation and interruption reimbursement

What other credit cards are comparable to the X1 Card?

So far, we think this card could be considered an everyday spending card. This is because of the potential to earn more rewards on all of your spend on the card, not just certain categories. Plus, in the event you spend more than $15,000 on the card in a year, you can earn up to 3X points on all your purchases, which is one of the highest rates we’ve seen for a flat-rate rewards card.

Although you can earn quite a bit with this card, you might not like the limited redemption options, which, for now, include cash back at 0.7 cents per point and 1 cent per point on select purchases from rewards partners.

If you want similar opportunities to earn and redeem points on everyday spending, you might like the Chase Freedom Unlimited®. Although you don’t earn as much on all purchases, there are bonus categories like travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards, where you can earn up to 5X points. Earn an extra 1.5% on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) cash back. That’s 6.5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 4.5% on dining and drugstores, and 3% on all other purchases.

Redeeming rewards is a little more straightforward and includes cash, statement credit, gift cards and shopping at The Freedom Unlimited earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points that can be redeemed for cash back at a 1:1 rate, making this card somewhat of a beginner travel credit card, especially if you plan to get a premium Chase card down the road.

If you want simple and straightforward rewards, the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card offers a flat 2 percent cash rewards on purchases. The Citi® Double Cash Card also offers 2 percent back—1 percent when you make purchases and another 1 percent when you pay down the balance.

The bottom line

The new X1 Card has debuted with an impressive lineup of features. However, since very few people have moved from the waitlist into card membership, it remains to be seen how the card will fare in terms of customer service, long-term value and the evolution of features.

If you are interested in the card, the best you can do at the moment is to hop on the waitlist and see if you’re chosen to apply. If you aren’t up for waiting on this card, you can check Bankrate’s CardMatch tool for other credit offers that match your credit profile.

Written by
Aja McClanahan
Personal Finance Writer
Aja McClanahan is an author, blogger and speaker on personal finance and entrepreneurship. Aja is the author of "How a Mother Should Talk About Money with Her Daughter."
Edited by
Senior Editor, Credit Card Product News
Reviewed by
Associate Editor