Stream of Consciousness: The Loyalty Card

Starting Point

I was watching Kyle Purnell’s At the Table lecture and he mentioned that when working a restaurant or bar, he’ll tell people to hang onto a signed card and bring it back the next time they come and he’ll do something special with it.


This gave me an idea for something I would do if I did professional restaurant or bar magic. Instead of just giving them a card, I would pull out a hole-punch and punch a hole in the card like it was a loyalty card.

Then, if they brought the card back, I would do something with the hole in the card. Move the hold around the card, transfer the hole to my business card, restore the hole, thread the card on a ribbon and magically remove it or whatever. The ideas is just that you’re planting the seed for a trick in the initial meeting in a way that has some sort of logic to it. You’re setting them up in a non-obvious way. Moving a hole (for example) on this card that they had in their purse for a month has a different feeling than moving a hole you just punched in a card for the sole purpose of moving it.

And I’m sure you could make this a good business strategy too. Give them a 4 of Diamonds and punch one of the pips. Tell them once the other three are punched on return visits you’ll teach them a trick or they’ll get a free appetizer (or whatever you think would motivate them to return). Maybe you say the manager has to initial the card each time, or whatever. Then you have people approaching the manager for a quick initial of the card suggesting not only did they come to see you but they intend to come back to see you, which could only make you look more valuable to the restaurant.

But take that idea with a grain of salt because I don’t know shit about doing magic in restaurants.


Thinking of loyalty cards reminded me of the one that’s used at one of the cafes I go to regularly. They punch a hole in the card with a star-shaped hole punch. “That’s certainly not some custom made hole-punch. I bet I can buy one of those,” I thought. And, sure enough, I could.

So I bought one. And I snagged a couple loyalty cards off the counter when no one was looking so I could prep them for some potential effects.

So far the only thing I’ve done for an actual person is to slide the “just punched” star from the first box to one of the boxes mid-way down the card.

I have another thing I’m working on where multiple star-holes move with a flick. And another trick where the star hole changes shape. I thought changing the stars to moons would make some sense, you know, celestially. But I’m currently changing them into hearts because—for god knows what reason—the crescent moon hole punch is almost $100 with shipping.


Kyle’s initial idea also sort of reminded me of a concept I wrote about here for the amateur performer where—instead of doing a five phase Ambitious Card routine, for example—you would do a one phase Ambitious Card routine over the course of five interactions with someone. That way, instead of doing a few okay phases and a big climax (which makes those “okay” phases sort of forgettable) all at once, you could do a different Ambitious Card climax each time you see them: the bent card, Ultimate Ambition, etc. So rather than three minutes of magic they may struggle to remember a month later, you have this trick that you can keep going for weeks, making it a more indelible experience.


Here’s something I’ve been doing along the same lines the past couple of years. If I’m performing at someone’s house and doing something with a signed card, I’ll stick it to their fridge with a magnet when I’m done.

Then the next time I’m there I’ll pull it off and do something else with it, then I’ll put it back on the refrigerator. And so on, each time I visit.

Each time I’m there, they draw some new mark on the card. So it’s an evolving memento.

It becomes their “permanent signed card.” And while, generally, I don’t feel a signed card makes for a very interesting or meaningful souvenir, when it has been used in half a dozen different tricks over the course of a year, it takes on a different sort of meaning. It’s not just a reminder of a card trick, it’s an object that has been a part of a number of different interactions between me and a friend over an extended period of time. In that way, it’s a keepsake not just of some magic tricks, but of our relationship.

My intention, at some point, is to “retire” the card and have a little ceremony where we burn it, then come back in the house only to find it back on the refrigerator or perhaps hanging on the wall in a picture frame.