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Written by Cyndie Martini
on October 19, 2021

Many small businesses don't offer a branded retail payment cards. There are many reasons why — it can be expensive to set up, it takes a long time to establish, and it can be expensive to maintain due to regulations. Highnote is a new fintech looking to change the branded card experience for small businesses and medium-sized enterprises.

Highnote just recently came onto the scene. It has currently has $54 million in funding through a Series A round. Costanoa Ventures co-led its seed round. Bill Ready, president of commerce and payments at Google (and former COO of PayPal), is an investor in the company. 

Some websites that have discussed Highnote mention it as a buy now pay later (BNPL) option for small businesses. That is incorrect. Highnote is a branded card platform for small businesses. Small businesses can already easily integrate buy now pay later solutions into their website. Fintechs offering BNPL provided simplified integration options from the beginning. 

Being a platform means Highnote provides a suite of services around branded cards. These include:

  • Issuing
  • Processing
  • Ledger
  • Financial Operations
  • Compliance

For a small business, managing a branded card solution can be overly burdensome. Highnote certainly adds value in this area. Branded cards have long been commonplace for larger firms, especially retailers. Highnote is looking to level the branded card playing field.

Highnote speeds up the entire process of offering a branded card solution. Businesses can launch a card in only two weeks vs. the typical four to eight months for traditional solutions. 

Highnote isn't an overlay on top of a major credit card company. Instead, it is both the issuer and processor. Merchants are provided with fraud protection services and a wealth of transactional data about their customers' spending. Highnote generates income by sharing in its merchants' revenue. 

Providing a branded card will allow small businesses to better develop their brand and customer loyalty. It isn't clear if Highnote offers or will offer incentive programs, such as loyalty programs. These are common with retail cards. Such programs would provide additional benefits to small businesses. 

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