3 Reasons Credit Unions Must Offer Virtual Cards

by Kelly Payne, Chief Marketing Officer at MOCA

(Reprinted with permission from CreditUnion Times. Original article published on November 1, 2021 and can be viewed here.)

Even if your credit union’s card program doesn’t appear to be broken, it may be time to fix it.

It is easy to think that if something is not broken, there is no need to fix it. Many times, however, it takes a while for credit unions – or any financial institution – to recognize the need for change and make it happen. It is time to move away from that mindset and instead get ahead of what members want.

Right now, credit unions may think that their current debit or credit card offerings are good enough. Why go virtual if physical cards are “working”? If members are not crying out for change, why go through the trouble of implementing new technology? What difference would it make?
There are several reasons credit unions must consider virtual cards, namely: Competition, consumers and cost.

Competition

Credit unions are facing competition at nearly every turn. Both banks and non-banks are revolutionizing the way consumers pay today. Apple successfully launched a popular virtual card. Capital One has Eno, an online payment assistant, and there are seemingly endless possibilities for P2P payments in the form of PayPal, Venmo, Cash App and others.

Credit unions must begin to do the same if they want to keep up, much less stand out in today’s competitive market. These outside payment providers are drawing deposits away from the credit union. According to NerdWallet, 68% of survey respondents said they have maintained a balance in their mobile payment app accounts. On average, those users have kept up to $287 in their account before transferring it to their bank account. Every time a member turns away from their credit union and toward their payment competition, the credit union is losing market share, whether it be for P2P payments or cards.

Consumers

Because of all the innovation in payments, consumers expect more. Members will not settle for an unsatisfactory payment experience from their credit union. Instead, they can and will go elsewhere to find what they are looking for from a payment provider, such as virtual cards or P2P payments.

The pandemic has also driven consumer demand to a place no one really expected. So much innovation has taken place over a relatively short amount of time, and everything is so far ahead of where most people expected it to be.
Digital payments have especially taken off due to the need for contactless transactions. Juniper Research found that digital wallet spend is projected to increase 83% by 2025 due to adoption of digital payments during the pandemic. People experience digital payments nearly everywhere now – at restaurants, in ride shares, in retail and the list goes on. Credit unions must provide these same capabilities to meet member demands.

Cost

It is another common misconception among financial institution leaders that technology has large, immediate upfront costs, but takes a longer time to bring a return on investment. However, virtual cards can help bring in more revenue for the credit union right away.

It is easy for credit unions to get their interchange check and not think about ways that income could grow. In a way, it feels like free money, so why change it? For one, virtual cards bring in a higher interchange rate for the issuer, growing that income without any extra work on the part of the credit union. Virtual cards are also easier to use for online transactions. More use leads to even more revenue.

In addition, the ability to instantly issue virtual cards adds immediate interchange opportunities compared to a plastic card that a consumer must wait seven days or more to receive via mail.

Your credit union’s card program may not appear to be “broken” but it is time to fix it. Virtual cards help credit unions stand up to the competition, exceed consumer expectations and bring in more revenue than their card programs do today.

Kelly Payne is Chief Marketing Officer of MOCA (www.mocapay.com), a digital-first next-generation card-based payment platform provider.