In 1987 Barclays launched Barclays Connect, the UK’s first debit card, just nine months later the bank had issued one million cards. It didn’t take long for debit cards to reach ubiquity and by 1995 debit card volumes exceeded credit card volumes for the first time.

Source: Barclays

Despite the meteoric rise in this new payments option differentiation and innovation has been difficult to achieve. After all, the introduction of a contactless payment option, displacing the cheque book and withdrawing cash from an ATM have been offered by all providers as common features of the debit card.

Over the last few years we’ve seen a few examples of debit card innovation. For example, the uncluttered front of a debit card, the vertical card, cards made with recycled material and even glow in the dark cards. These are all examples of ‘fun’ innovation but not really game changing innovations.

Sometimes, however, innovation arrives in the most simplest of forms and presents itself as a game changer.

This week with just a ‘dot and notch’ Nationwide Building Society have delivered the simplest form of innovation to the humble debit card that will make a big difference for many people.

A dot

Certified by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), Nationwide’s new debit card will include a series of dots that help distinguish between debit and credit cards.

A notch

Not content with this innovation, Nationwide’s new debit card will also include a notch on the side of the card that indicates which way around the card needs to be inserted into card machines and ATMs.

And recycled

Almost as an aside Nationwide’s new debit cards will score well on its ‘green’ credentials as it is made from 85% recycled plastic.

Nationwide’s innovation is certified by the Royal National Institute of Blind People and these cards will be the new standard for all customers, rather than the exception.

Simple changes to bank cards can make the world of difference to those with sight loss and we congratulate Nationwide on taking these steps to make banking a more inclusive and accessible experience for their blind and partially sighted customers,

David Clarke, Director of Services, RNIB

It’s important to note that Nationwide isn’t the only UK bank to adopt the RNIB’s ‘dot and notch’ system to help those customers with sight loss. NatWest began offering the cards as opt-in in 2017 and First Direct enhanced their debit card in 2020 for all customers.

Accessible and recycled cards are a great step and offer a more inclusive and accessible banking experience for the building society’s blind and partially sighted customers – perhaps we’ll see more banks and fintechs join the initiative.