Meet PAU=L, A Card Program's New Best Friend

Credit unions can fuel growth by leveraging these key fundamentals.


Debit and credit card usage is greater than ever, but many financial institution’s cards programs are not as strong as ever.  The most successful credit unions in the payments space have a solid foundation and never lose sight of the fundamentals: penetration deep into the membership, with active participation and usage. When leveraged strategically, these factors fuel enhanced member loyalty and ensure a strong cards program.

One strategy credit unions may want to consider is to introduce PAU=L (penetration, activation, and usage equals loyalty), a program recommended to assist cooperatives in growing their card portfolios. Credit unions that leverage PAU=L show at least a 20% increase in card revenue after initial use, with ongoing growth in the long-term. Best of all, PAU=L also enables credit unions to set clear goals and better track program performance, which is never bad when reporting back to the board.

Debit Card Fundamentals: PAU=L

Penetration Goal: 90% Of Members Using Debit, 70% Of Members Qualifying For Credit 

The PAU=L method suggests 90% of members with a checking or savings account should also have a debit card. It may seem simple, but a plan should be established to automatically issue a debit card every time a checking or savings account is opened.  Credit unions that employ this one simple strategy greatly increase their debit card program penetration. It is also recommended that credit unions regularly revisit their existing member base and target those that do not yet have a debit card as well as  those who qualify for credit.

Activation Goal: 60% Of Members 

According to the PAU=L method, 60% of cardholders should activate their cards within 30-60 days of issuance.  To facilitate this, Corporate One has incentive programs available to help credit unions motivate cardholders to activate their cards. Such programs should target inactive users within 30, 45 and 60 days of card issuance to ensure success in meeting a 60% activation goal.

Usage Goal: 20 Debit Transactions A Month Per Cardholder, $500 Spend A Month Per Credit Cardholder 

When cardholders reach this transaction level, the potential to boost interchange increases significantly.  The key to getting cardholders to transact at this rate is education. Credit unions should help cardholders understand the value and convenience of their cards, as well as find out what program features are the most valuable to members and work to include or enhance them.

For example, many of Corporate One’s members actively promote point of sale (POS) cash back, a feature proven to increase debit transactions. Credit unions may also consider usage campaigns to raise program awareness and change cardholder behavior among those with low-to-moderate transaction rates.

Loyalty Goal: 100% Retention Of Members  

It’s far less costly to reward current members than it is to gain new ones to replace them, so it is recommended that credit unions reinforce usage through special offers, sweepstakes, or a rewards program. If a cooperative doesn’t have the budget for a traditional rewards program, like Corporate One’s CU Rewards, then it should consider merchant reward programs where the merchant pays for cardholder benefits. These programs generate loyalty by encouraging members to look to the credit union first for other products and services.

Corporate One can strengthen your credit union’s cards program from the ground up. Tell us what you want, and be amazed at what we can make happen. Contact 866/MyCorp1 or visit for more information.

Amy MacMullen is the director of cards services for Corporate One Federal Credit Union. She has nearly 15 years of experience in the financial services/cards industry; specializing in program growth and helping credit unions enter the cards arena. She can be reached at

About Corporate One Federal Credit Union
Corporate One Federal Credit Union is a leading wholesale financial services provider to more than 950 of America’s credit unions. With more than $6.5 billion in assets under management, Corporate One offers correspondent services including ATM/debit/credit cards, share draft imaging, and depository and electronic payment services as well as investment solutions to credit unions across the United States. Corporate One developed and manages Alliance One, one of the nation’s largest non-network-specific ATM selective-surcharging groups. For more information, visit


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