Set Clear Goals for Debit Success

Whether you are trying to acquire new account holders or motivate your existing cardholder base to activate and use their debit cards, your credit union needs a clearly defined strategy.




Whether you are trying to acquire new account holders or motivate your existing cardholder base to activate and use their debit cards, you need a clearly defined strategy. When you follow a simple yet structured approach, you will receive a greater return from your marketing dollars.

Increasing your debit card portfolio's success involves a simple formula: PAU =L or Penetration Activation and Usage equals Loyalty. Setting your debit card's portfolio performance against the following goals will give you a better-defined starting point.

Targeting for Growth
Penetration: 90% of members. The PAU =L model recommends that 90% of your credit union members with a checking or savings account should also have a debit card. While 90% may seem a lofty goal, it is attainable!

  • Automatically issue debit cards at every checking or savings account opening
  • Target existing accountholder segments that don't have debit cards

Activation: 60% of debit cardholders. Fully 60% of your debit cardholders should be active with one or more transactions per month. Motivating your cardholders to activate and begin using their card is the key to moving forward in the cycle and establishing a successful relationship.

  • Provide a welcome package at card issuance with motivational content and incentives to activate and use
  • Target inactive cardholders within 90 days of issuance

Usage: 20 transactions. Your goal is 20 transactions per month for each active card. At this level, your debit card has important “wallet share” for your members. They understand its value and convenience, and choose it for the important purchases. Don't distinguish between PIN and Signature transactions, encourage usage of both!

  • Educate your cardholders on the many ways to use their card
  • Promote purchasing value and POS cash back
  • Target low and moderate transactors with usage campaigns

Loyalty: 100% retention. Reward your loyal cardholders to ensure ongoing high usage levels. This will foster long-term member relationships that translate into 100% retention of active accounts.

  • Reward usage with a rewards program and/or high-value deposit account features
  • Use periodic merchant offers and sweepstakes to reinforce usage
  • Maintain educational marketing to reinforce your brand message

The PAU =L model allows you to guide your members from one component to the next, increasing their loyalty and your revenue. This cyclical plan provides for the continued addition of new members as they open debit-tied accounts.

Plan Your Way to Success
PSCU Financial Services, the nation's largest CUSO, continues to lead the industry in card usage programs. We have developed the PAU =L model and supporting marketing campaigns to ensure the continued and accelerated success of our member credit unions. Over 85% of our debit CUs participated in the direct mail campaigns geared to changing their members' debit-usage habits.

“One CU reported that changing the debit-usage habits of just 450 members resulted in an additional 124,000 debit transactions yearly! This is just one of many success stories and the change we strive to affect for our member base.” said Ron Silvia, Director of Debit Services.

With this PAU =L model your credit union will benefit not only from the increased interchange revenue, but also from the loyalty factor. Members who are invested in their debit card exhibit a very high trust level. Their propensity to turn to their credit union first for other products and services is heightened, resulting in increased product penetration. And, really, isn't that the goal of every credit union?

For more information about utilizing the PAU =L model or maximizing your debit portfolio, please visit



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July 28, 2008


  • Would like to use this article as we continue to add FI's
    Jim Simpson