Rewards Programs Increasingly Important

Consumer spending is showing signs of rebounding and credit cards are re-emerging as one of the payment vehicles of choice.


Over the past two years, consumers have reduced their credit card use. As they became aware of the financial crisis, rising unemployment rates and an economy in flux, they responded by pulling back on their credit card spending. Now with the economy slowly recovering, consumer spending is showing signs of rebounding and credit cards are re-emerging as one of the payment vehicles of choice.

Silvio Tavares, senior vice president at First Data, a card transaction processer for 4.1 million merchant locations, said that now "credit is back in favor,” according to a December 2011 CNN article, as credit card usage is returning to pre-recession spending levels. Spending results from Black Friday weekend 2011 results showed that holiday shoppers reached for their credit cards more frequently than their debit cards and overall spending was up 7% from the same period a year earlier.

Rewards on the Rise

In 2011, 80% of credit card offers have included rewards points, miles, or cash rebates, up from 60% in 2009, according to Mintel Corporation. This sets the stage for a competitive landscape where credit card issuers need to not only offer compelling rewards programs, but also provide a high level of service with that program in order to ensure a highly favorable member experience. These are the current table stakes to entice cardmembers to keep any credit card at the top of their respective wallets.

Credit unions can effectively compete in this landscape by developing a rich product set and ensuring the service experience meets or exceeds the members’ expectations.

A successful rewards program should:

  1. Empower your members in both the earning and redemption of rewards.

  2. Create a simple and powerful rewards experience message which resonates with current and prospective cardmembers.

  3. Offer a full suite of reward products (consumer, business, young adult, elite, etc.) to reach the entire scope of your membership.

  4. Focus on providing a high level of service and a consistent member experience, which should include an easy-to-navigate redemption site and categorical rewards, which are becoming increasingly popular with consumers.

Successful programs can be developed in-house or in partnership with an external party.  A peak in the mailbox during any given week will reveal credit card offers with tens of thousands of bonus points, tiered earning structures, accelerated earning structures, and stated straight forward reward values. Finding a rewards message that resonates with members in this environment remains the key to creating long-term satisfaction.

Partnership for Success

Elan Financial Services has been partnering with credit unions for more than 25 years and has created a credit union specific partnership philosophy that ensures each member is highly valued. With nearly 400 successful credit union partnerships in place, and growing, Elan is one of the nation’s oldest and most chosen agent issuing partners in the United States with more than 40 years experience and 1,700 partners. Elan Financial Services has the expertise and credibility to bring partners a highly competitive and rewards-driven credit card program that ensures a differentiated and exceptional member experience.

Learn more about Elan Financial Service at



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