Top of wallet is an interesting term in the credit and debit card space. As payment methods and spending habits have changed, so has the definition. So, what does top of wallet mean now, and what does it mean for your credit card?

Nowadays, top of wallet more commonly refers to a user’s default card. It’s the one they use for most of their purchases. But what kind of purchases? And how is this new definition different from the old one?



What Top of Wallet Used to Mean


Originally, top of wallet described the position of the credit or debit card in the wallet. Essentially, it referred the the first card that someone pulled out when they needed to pay for something. Its position at the “top” just indicated that it was the most accessible. It was the “go to” card.

This description made a lot of sense when most commerce was done in person. However, an increasing amount of services are completed online. Think about it:

  • Amazon purchases
  • Grocery shopping, whether pick up/delivery or subscription (Blue Apron, Hello Fresh)
  • Items in Google Play and the App Store

And then there are recurring subscriptions. Some recurring subscriptions have been around for a while and they’re so ingrained in our subconscious that it’s sometimes hard to remember them:

  • Utility and cell phone bills
  • Gym memberships
  • Auto and health insurance

But there are an increasing number of non-vital subscriptions and recurring payments to keep track of as well. These are a little easier to recognize because they don’t seem as vital:

  • Dollar Shave Club, BarkBox, Loot Crate
  • Netflix, Amazon Prime, Spotify
  • Adobe Creative Cloud, Xbox Live, Antivirus software

Still, these transactions are all fairly unique to this decade. Before that, there were far fewer available subscriptions, recurring charges, and purchases made over the internet.

So, what does this mean?


Where Do You Store Your Card?


In the examples above, people rarely pull out their card to pay. After a few online transactions, most people have their card information stored in a mobile wallet or with the vendor.

That means that there is no physical wallet. Therefore, there is no physical “top” of the wallet, nor a most convenient card to pull out.

The thing is, most people have an outrageous amount of online and recurring subscriptions. The average American spends $857 per month on recurring charges. Add on any one-off purchases from online retailers, and suddenly, Card Not Present (CNP) transactions make up a massive chunk of what we use our cards for.

If you’re not reaching for a card to pay for something, then “top of wallet” doesn’t mean top of wallet anymore.


What Top of Wallet Means Today


Today, top of wallet refers to the default card on file for subscription payments. It also kind of refers to the default card for in-person transactions. It’s a little of both.

The idea is that top of wallet refers to the default card for all transactions, but with a little more weight toward the card on file for recurring payments. That’s because $857 per month is a lot of guaranteed interchange revenue.

And, if that same card is on file in a mobile wallet, or if its information is stored with their favorite online retailers, then $857 monthly is the floor for that card, not the ceiling.


Additional Reading


In offline environments, being top of wallet is less complicated. However, with managing subscriptions, mobile wallets, and recurring payments, staying top of wallet is a little messier.

Subscribe to our blog today to see how you can keep your card top of wallet in today’s subscription economy.

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