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The X1 Credit Card pushes the envelope on rewards and security

Offering higher spending limits, virtual card support and a progressive rewards rate, this "smart" credit card is worth a look.

x1 card invite requested
X1/Screenshot by Jaclyn DeJohn/CNET

The X1 Card* was recently unveiled, offering a handful of unique rewards and security features. It even begs a double take aesthetically. Advertised as 17 grams of stainless steel, the card will be delivered to you in a branded box, a move unlike that of typical envelope-wielding issuers.

In keeping with X1's aspiration to be unconventional, you can't just "apply" for it. Following the playbook of apps and services seeking to come across as exclusive, you can request an invite to apply by submitting your name, email address and income. 

X1 smart card features

The X1 card intends to use technology to ease security and payment management hassles, while enabling users to improve their credit more effortlessly. X1 says its credit card offers up to five times the spending limit of a traditional credit card, with its average credit limit at $24,300. That gives cardholders significantly more spending power -- as well as the opportunity to dig themselves deeper into debt. It also potentially gives them the chance to increase their credit score by improving credit utilization (the ratio between what an individual owes and their total spending limit). The issuer bases your credit limit on your salary, and approved new X1 cardholders have annual salaries ranging from $40k to millions of dollars.

Another interesting feature is support for automatic virtual cards, which gives you a unique, one-time credit card number each time you make a purchase online. This helps you spend more anonymously by limiting companies' access to your personal information, potentially preventing identity theft. These virtual cards can be used for one-time purchases and are convenient options for free trials for new services and subscriptions you want to test. Alternatively, you can generate virtual credit cards designed to be used more than once, that expire in a set number of days that you specify. This can be helpful if you want to sign up for a free trial of a service and want to auto-expire the card before you get charged, or if you want to share the credit with someone (say, a family member or employee) for a set period. You're also able to manage and cancel subscription payments in one click from the X1 app.

How the X1 points and rewards system stacks up

The points system is fairly rewarding and has components unlike other cards on the market. You earn 2x points for every dollar spent on every purchase, and if you spend more than $15,000 in a year, you're automatically upgraded to earn 3x points for every dollar spent that year. At a general redemption rate of $0.01 per point, this equates to a standard flat cash-back rate of 2% to 3% (when spending over $15,000 annually). This boost is somewhat reminiscent of Discover's Unlimited Cashback match program, in that your total annual expenditure can earn you even more rewards. With the X1 card, however, the opportunity to earn a 3x points bonus lasts beyond your first year. 

A 2% flat cash-rewards rate is competitive with the best flat-rate cards on the market, including the Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card* and Citi® Double Cash Card (1% when you buy, 1% when you pay). 

On top of flat-rate rewards, you can occasionally activate bonus "boost" categories from your app as they become available. There's also a referral bonus. For each friend you refer who gets the card, you unlock 30 days of 4x points on your purchases (note that a referral bonus might trigger a taxable event). Points can then be redeemed against purchases made with major players in tech, retail, fitness and travel. 

The card offers 12.75% to 19.75% variable APR on purchases -- the lowest range in its class. There are also no foreign transaction fees or annual fees. It is issued by Coastal Community Bank, Member FDIC.

Apply for the invite list or stay tuned for our full review -- we are on the invite list and are eagerly awaiting receipt of this card.

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