Swipe right: How credit unions can benefit from the national surge in card use

After two full quarters of data collection, the results are in: consumers are in love with their cards—and we’re not talking about the ones used to play Solitaire. Now that people want to minimize hand-to-hand exchanges between themselves and strangers, cash is no longer king. Debit and credit card use increased over 75% compared to last year, and many expect to see an even greater jump going into the holiday season.

So, what does this mean for financial institutions like credit unions?

It’s time to re-examine how you market, brand, and advertise your cards. With more people searching for a better way to spend, it’s important to let them know you have the solutions they need. 

Contactless Payments On The Rise

Retailers big and small recognize that a preference for cashless transactions is more than a matter of convenience—it’s a matter of anxiety reduction. A Back to Business study conducted by Visa revealed that 48% of Americans will not shop at stores requiring contact with a cashier or a shared surface like a POS terminal. With all things equal including price, quality, and location, 63% would switch to a store that offers contactless payment over one that doesn’t. 

Shop owners know providing the means to minimize contact between their staff and customers is key to keeping their storefronts afloat while taking every safety precaution into consideration. Even though object-to-person transmission of most viruses is relatively rare, people still refuse to take the risk—62% of consumers cite a fear of getting sick through money handling as the primary reason why they are choosing touch-free payment options. Affirming these findings from Visa, a recent NRF report showed that 67% of retail spaces now offer some form of non-touch payment for shoppers. 

Make sure your team is taking the right steps to keep pace with this trend, especially since it’s an easy one to adopt. Apple, Samsung, and Google all have easy guides to link up your institution with their contactless services. Whether it’s true or not, credit unions still have a reputation for trailing behind banks in adopting new technology. It’s pivotal to let people know this kind of tech is in your bag of tricks. Offering and promoting these new ways to pay also lets members and small businesses know you’re aware of their needs and have their back.

Coin Shortages Offer Opportunity

The rise in card usage across the U.S. also comes at a cost: coin shortages. This news isn’t particularly breaking in the credit union world, but how you perceive this sudden change matters. It’s more than just a point of frustration for your day-to-day operations—it’s also an opportunity to court potential members.

Ultimately, most of us are happy to have fewer pennies weighing down our pockets, but the coin shortage puts significant stress on the 6% of American households without bank accounts or credit union memberships. With the current stall in cash circulation, many have a new motivation to bring their money to a financial institution. If your credit union has membership requirements complimenting the needs of these individuals, it might be time to consider a campaign that lets these audiences know you’re here to help. 

To many of America’s “unbanked,” access to a credit union seems unobtainable under normal circumstances, let alone right now. But, this misconception mostly stems from a lack of outreach done by financial institutions. The simple act of letting the public know about your minimum account requirements can do more than just enhance your membership numbers—it can empower people to build stronger financial futures.

What’s In A Name? Everything. 

With monikers like Lemonade, Chime, and Picnic dominating the fintech world, your card naming limitations are only restricted by your imagination. You’d be surprised how something as simple as a unique name can make your product seem less stuffy and more person-focused. Most of these newer companies market themselves by emphasizing a “people over profits” mindset—even though that’s a benefit originally synonymous with credit unions. Since your card likely involves a partnership with either Visa or Mastercard, make sure consumers know your card is accepted worldwide while offering the low rates credit unions are famous for. With smarter branding and naming choices, your team can re-stake its claim as the ultimate person-first institution. 

Like a great name, an eye-catching card design turns a standard-issue plastic square into a valuable piece of brand awareness. Think of credit and debit cards as marketing collateral your members show off whenever they make a purchase. A bland design yields a bland consumer response. Don’t miss an opportunity to stand out.

No matter what you choose for a name or design, make sure it matches the tone of what your overall brand signifies. Do you have an official color scheme? A poignant mission statement? A logo that calls upon a piece of local history? Keep in mind what makes you unique while finding a name that plays up the card’s benefits. 

For consumers across the U.S., credit union accessibility is more widespread than ever, especially with the latest NCUA rule in place. The ball is in your court. With fewer limitations holding you back from growing to your full potential, now is an ideal time to help people navigate a new, cash-free world.

Ben Prager

Ben Prager

Prior to forming Prager Creative, Ben worked with design studios, branding firms and advertising agencies to push great strategy and design for all his projects. His experience with all aspects ... Web: www.pragercreative.com/creditunions Details

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