How to Keep Your Credit Union’s Brand Top of Wallet blog article

How to Keep Your Credit Union’s Brand Top of Wallet

By: Jennifer Fix, Manager, Credit & Fraud Product Strategy, PSCU, and Rick Shere, Vice President, Project Delivery & Plastics Fulfillment, PSCU

With more payment options available than ever before to consumers, keeping your credit union card top of wallet can be challenging in today’s competitive landscape. A standout card can strengthen your credit union’s brand and drive member engagement. Here are some tactics to consider that can help get your traditional and digital cards to stand out to cardholders.

Debit, credit, ATM and prepaid cards that you issue members represent a tactile and visual connection to your brand and value. For instance, metal cards have grown in popularity as a sturdy status symbol. Here are some questions to address as you plan your card strategies:

  • Are you offering various print options, i.e. traditional (embossed) lettering or flat, unraised lettering, or laser printing? And more importantly in today’s COVID-19 environment, is your card contactless?
  • Is your card vibrant? Using various color options, card finishes, color cores and magstripe options can bring your card to life.
  • Does card orientation (horizontal or vertical) matter? Some members may gravitate toward cutting edge and sophistication while others simply need a card to pay for their things.
  • How much does color, cut and clarity play a role in what consumers are looking for in today’s fierce payment channel?

Overcoming the Roadblocks

EMV chip technology has forced an industry once set on the versatility of a single magnetic stripe to rethink everything about what the physical payment device does and how it looks, feels and costs. Add in a nifty antenna, use recyclable materials or even high-dollar metals, and the price of keeping your brand top-of-wallet increases. Even more important than keeping up with industry trends is how your credit union leverages this critical member touchpoint to reinforce your brand.

The Time is Now for Contactless

Regardless of the appearance of your physical plastics, your credit union should be issuing contactless cards to keep up with member demand. Now more than ever, consumers are handling less cash for small to mid-size dollar transactions. Contactless – in all channels – is displacing cash.

Merchant contactless adoption has also increased significantly year over year, with 250 of the top 300 U.S. merchants accepting contactless payments. Gone are the days when members were primarily asked to “swipe” their card. The ease and control of “tap-and-go” is becoming standard for how businesses and consumers prefer to pay.

PSCU is seeing exponential growth in contactless cards. We will produce more than 3 million new contactless plastics – the most significant volume in the credit union space – and deliver them to more than 140 credit unions to support natural and mass reissuance strategies in the current calendar year.

What’s Next for Plastics?

While the current buzz may be around all things contactless, it won’t be forever. Will the digital evolution come sooner than later? Digital transformation is already all around us, including the ambition to modify wallet use with other credentials outside of the card, such as insurance cards, state-issued IDs and military IDs, etc. Merchants are also driving traffic to in-app purchasing with lucrative rewards incentives and offerings – load a card, scan the barcode and go!

Physical card biometrics are also launching and thumbprint chip activation is currently being tested in the market. However, expect the price to remain high until the kinks are worked out and they gain broad adoption.

Will there continue to be a place for the physical card with the rapid evolution of the consumer payment device? What’s most important to keep top of mind is that whether cards take the form of digital, plastic or infrared, how consumers prefer to spend will dictate market adoption and readiness.

Jennifer Fix has been in the credit card industry for more than 25 years and has spent the last five years managing PSCU’s credit and fraud strategic product managers. One of her team’s main focuses has been the commercialization and standardization of Contactless EMV cards in the market.

Rick Shere is the vice president of Plastics Fulfillment and Project Delivery at PSCU. With nearly 15 years of experience within the financial services industry, he strives to provide thought leadership that helps our credit unions succeed and grow while eliminating friction in the EMV, card procurement and inventory management aspects of card issuance.