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Why the X1 Credit Card Is Worth the Wait

The X1 credit card offers innovative virtual card options and a large credit line.

Though I spent six months on the waitlist for the X1 Card*, the wait paid off. The X1 Card offers a host of enticing features unlike any other credit card on the market. The security, rewards and credit-building opportunities with this card are unmatched. 

You have to request an invite to apply for this card, but once you get the invite, the application is income-based. Unlike many other credit cards, the X1 weighs your income much more heavily in your application than credit score, enabling people who may not qualify for other cards to potentially qualify. Even better, successful applicants get a way bigger credit line than most credit cards will give. X1 claims they give up to "5x the average credit line" of other issuers, and I was indeed shocked at the credit line I received upfront.

This metal credit card runs strictly from a mobile app, where you can generate a number of different virtual credit card types to keep your personal information safe and financing flexible. There are a lot of ways to earn rewards boosts, and you can earn up to 4% back on all of your purchases if you strategize well. Put simply, the X1 Card is raising the bar for credit cards.

Here's everything you need to know about the X1 card's rewards, how to apply and what sets it apart.

In this article

X1 Visa®

Card Highlights
Intro OfferN/A
APR15.00% - 22.00% Variable
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Recommended Credit Excellent/Good Credit
Reward Rates
  • Earn 2x points on every dollar spent
  • Earn 3x points on every dollar spent that entire year when you spend $15,000+ in a year
  • 4X points for 30 days for each friend you invite who gets the card
Annual FeeNone
Additional Details
Balance Transfer APR15.00% - 22.00% Variable
Balance Transfer Fee 2% of the amount of each transfer.
Penalty APR None
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • Earn 2x points on every dollar spent
  • Earn 3x points on every dollar spent that entire year when you spend $15,000+ in a year
  • 4X points for 30 days for each friend you invite who gets the card

How to get the X1 card

Applications are not fully open yet. You can request an invite and await an application email, which could take weeks to months depending on the flow of the limited rollout. Once you get the email, you have 21 days to complete the application before X1 gives your spot on the waiting list to someone else. If you get a referral from a current cardholder, you can skip the waitlist.

Here are six reasons why you may want to join the X1's waitlist.

1. You can get approved even with a lower credit score

The X1 Card has the potential to help cardholders boost their credit score, in large part because approval is based more on income than on credit. While the application does require a credit pull, a hard credit check was only conducted after I was approved, though it did request my Social Security number to do a soft pull (which doesn't affect your credit score) before approval. I was approved for the X1 primarily based on my income. 

To verify your income, X1 asks you to log into your bank account where your paychecks are deposited via Plaid, a secure financial data connection service. If you have two-factor authentication turned on with your online bank account, you may have to temporarily disable that feature for Plaid to work, depending on the bank. 

2. The X1 gives a large credit line

Gold confetti falls down over a screen that says "Congratulations, your limit is $19,000"

The X1 Card gives up to five times the credit limit of traditional credit cards.

Screenshot by Jaclyn DeJohn/CNET

X1 told CNET in December that it grants credit lines up to five times as large as those offered by traditional issuers -- the average credit line granted to successful X1 applicants was $24,300. I was a bit skeptical about this "big credit line" promise, but X1 followed through, granting me a credit line nearly three times what most credit cards typically offer me.

You might be asking why a big credit line even matters, especially since we recommend paying off credit card balances in full each month. The answer is that a larger credit line can boost your creditworthiness. As long as you maintain low balances, the more total credit available to you will lower your credit utilization ratio. Your credit utilization refers to how much credit you have access to versus the debt (or balances) you hold -- and the lower your credit utilization, typically the higher your credit score.

For example, if you have access to $20,000 in credit and have combined balances totaling $4,000, your credit utilization would be 20% ($4,000 divided by $20,000). When you gain access to a higher credit limit, let's say, another $20,000, your credit utilization drops even lower. For example, having access to $40,000 in credit and carrying that total balance of $4,000 would give you a lower credit utilization of 10%, which is great news for your credit score.

3. The X1's rewards program gets better the more you spend

A screen in the X1 app shows a gauge for how many points you are currently earning as well as how much you need to spend per week in the next year to get to the next level.

The X1 app lets you know how much per week you would need to spend to unlock 3x points on all purchases.

Screenshot by Jaclyn DeJohn/CNET

The primary reason I signed up for the X1 was its robust, flat rewards structure. You earn 2x points on all your purchases -- points are worth 1 cent each -- and if you spend $15,000 in a year, all of your spending gets upgraded to earning 3x points. Earning three points on all purchases is the pillar of top rewards rates, and very few cards offer it. And, the cards that do offer 3% back in rewards on all purchases typically require a much higher spending threshold to unlock those rewards. 

The card's app also neatly splits up the $15,000 threshold into an estimated weekly spend so that you can track your progress toward better rewards.

The downside: Redeeming rewards as cash back lessens their value

While you have the opportunity to earn a higher rewards rate than most cards, the X1 may only make sense if you can take advantage of its redemption partnerships. Rewards can be redeemed as a statement credit against your purchases at more than 40 brands -- including Amazon, Costco, Home Depot, Ikea, Airbnb, several airlines, Apple and more -- at a value of 1 cent per point. 

However, if you choose to redeem for cash back, you'll get 0.7 cents per point. This system is similar to American Express rewards cards, but the X1's 1 cent redemption brands cover a wider scope of purchases.

So, if you're a consistent Amazon or Costco shopper, frequent flyer or can otherwise take advantage of the redemption partners, this may not be an issue. But if you're hoping to earn rewards as cash back and will spend less than $15,000 in a year, you might want to turn to other cards. Alternatively, if you're likely to hit the $15,000 threshold, even the more limited cash-back option will yield you 2.1% back on your purchases -- still a top flat rewards rate.

You can earn additional points -- up to 10x points -- on the "Shop" tab of the app as well. There are about 50 brands where you can earn extra points, including at Apple, Macy's, Nike, Sephora, H&M, Home Depot, Lowe's, The North Face and Walmart. You'll have to shop through the X1 app to have these rewards applied, however. This type of feature is becoming more common with newer credit card companies.

4. The referral bonus isn't taxable, like most others

Only some credit cards offer a referral bonus, and X1 is one of them. You can invite up to three friends, and if they get the card, you both earn 30 days of 4x points on all of your purchases. This can be more valuable than the typical $100 range for referral bonuses, depending on how much you spend in a month. 

There's something else that's special about this referral bonus. While most credit card referral bonuses are taxable, because this one comes in the form of the potential to earn more points rather than a cash payout, you won't owe taxes on these referral bonuses. That's because the IRS considers points a "rebate" rather than income. 

5. The virtual card capability is unmatched

A "Virtual Cards" page in the X1 app displays three options for different types of virtual credit cards.

No other credit card currently offers such versatile virtual credit cards.

Screenshot by Jaclyn DeJohn/CNET

The X1 app allows you to generate a variety of different virtual credit card types, demonstrating better technology than most credit cards offer. Virtual cards are one-time use card numbers meant to keep your real information secure. But X1 takes the virtual card concept a step (or two) further and expands it.

You can employ X1 virtual cards for a variety of reasons. Multiple virtual cards can be used at once, and you can cancel individual ones at any time. Or you can just start off with a virtual card set to auto-cancel after one use or after 24 hours. The virtual cards can be used to sign up for free trials, so you don't get charged when a subscription trial ends and you forget to cancel it ahead of time. You can also give a virtual card number to others -- like a babysitter or family member -- for temporary use, and can cancel it at your discretion. 

You can even make separate virtual cards to manage your automatic payments from the app at your discretion. For example, if you needed to cancel an auto payment because you were a little short that month, you could do it all from the X1 app instead of logging in to separate accounts for each payee. 

6. Insurance and other protections

Some credit cards offer one or two types of courtesy protections, typically focused on an area like travel. But the X1 offers one of the broadest combinations of protections. 

First, it covers your eligible purchases from damage or theft for 90 days via "purchase security," which may reimburse you up to $1,000 for affected purchases, for up to $10,000 per cardholder. The X1 card will also add an additional year to any eligible warranties on items you buy with the card (including purchases made with virtual cards).

Cell phone protection is a rare but useful offering, too: If you pay your mobile phone bill with your X1 card, your phone is covered for damage or theft in the following month (with a $50 deductible).

It's also rare for a nontravel card to offer trip interruption or cancellation insurance, as well as an auto rental collision damage waiver, but these perks can help prevent losses from unexpected changes to nonrefundable trips and save you money at the car rental counter.

FAQs

You were approved for the X1. Now what?

After the approval process was completed, I was invited to download the X1 app to start using my card until it arrived via FedEx in about a week's time. You can track the FedEx shipment right from the app. 

In line with the rest of the card's swanky branding, the app announced the card was being "manufactured" for me (marketing trick or not, it does make you feel important). I was also prompted to add the X1 Card to my phone's wallet app, which I did for convenience. 

How long is the X1's waitlist?

X1's waitlist is unpredictable -- it could take a few weeks or months to get the invite. The speed will depend on the rate at which invitees opt to apply, and how long they take to do so (invitees have three weeks to apply once they get the email). Referrals by current cardholders also have the ability to skip the line and apply right away, so the rate of referrals will also affect the speed of the waitlist.

Is cash back better than points?

While cash back is a more accessible concept, cash back and points both have their strengths and weaknesses. While cash back can be more universally applicable, points are often worth more in value than their cash-back equivalents. Depending on your shopping preferences and plans, you may find points or cash back to be more valuable to you.

Our methodology

CNET reviews credit cards by exhaustively comparing them across set criteria developed for each major category, including cash-back, welcome bonus, travel rewards and balance transfer. We take into consideration the typical spending behavior of a range of consumer profiles -- with the understanding that everyone's financial situation is different -- and the designated function of a card. 

*All information about the X1 Card has been collected independently by CNET and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.