Irving-Based Fintech CardNow Reimagines Gift Cards With On-Demand Activations

CardNow acts as a cyber-Saint Nick, delivering gift cards that consumers can load and activate in a pinch for presents.

Launched out of North Texas, CardNow aims to nationally minimize the clutter and chaos of plastic gift cards, while optimizing the nature of gifting and incentivizing. 

A service by RewardLayer, LLC, the startup gives clients a stockpile of their own inactive, ready-to-load gift cards for a select set of stores and restaurants. This year, giving is on-demand, as each gift card can be paid for and activated from the CardNow mobile app. 

Officially live this past July, CardNow embraces the rapid pace of today’s payment process. The fintech aims to streamline the thank-you process by supplying gift cards to over 50 brands, from Amazon to Chili’s. Founder and CEO Matthew Frye says that modernization is what excites him most.

“Digital gifting has been the next big thing for 10 years and COVID certainly accelerates pockets of that activity,” Frye told Dallas Innovates. “I’ve had the pleasure of working at both startups and behemoths like Chase and Visa. No matter what, there’s constantly innovation from the early stages through exits and acquisitions.” 

Frye—or “the Kevin Bacon of Payments,” according to his LinkedInhas held roles in financial services across vendor, bank, and corporate sectors. He has been in the guts of the various buildings, he says, but now, he’s building the building. 

CardNow is marketed toward small businesses and verticals within this overarching moniker, from multi-level marketing organizations to property management. A gift card functions as a simple gesture, incentive, or peace offering, Frye says. 

“We’ve had cases of landlords where their waterline breaks and they’ve got a resident that’s upset,” he says. “Sometimes, fixing the problem and just saying sorry is not enough. Having gift cards on-deck is invaluable to say, ‘here’s something for your troubles.'” 

Frye underscores the customizable convenience of options based on customers’ different frequencies of gift-giving. The $12.99 Starter Box holds 25 cards from up to five merchant brands. Or, the $4.99 Starter Pack contains 10 gift cards, from two merchant brands. 

Financed via a combination of bootstrapping and an early friends and family round, CardNow is optimistic about future quarters, Frye says. After all, he adds, the company is comprised of just five employees, which allows a collaborative and real-time closeness that makes pivoting in the corporate landmine of a coronavirus economy.

Overall, CardNow prides itself on creating value for the customer and filling a need, says Frye. “If we continue to get checkmarks and five-star reviews, economic success will take care of itself.” 

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