Strategies to Increase Debit Card Usage

Many credit unions just issue a debit card to their members with a checking account. Learn how Patriot FCU, University FCU and Citibank structure their programs.

Many credit unions automatically offer a debit card to a member when he opens a checking account. The general belief is that once a member has the debit card, she will begin using it frequently thereby generating interchange income for the credit union.Often, these credit unions offer little member education beyond basic material on the website and in the monthly newsletter.

Does this sound like your debit card strategy?

Today, a few innovative credit unions and banks are doing more than just offering a debit card by taking a more proactive approach to encouraging member usage- especially of the signature-based option.

Patriot Federal Credit Union ($314M in Chambersburg , PA)

Patriot builds up the hype of its debit card program by offering a monthly and annual drawing. Each time a member selects credit at the point of sale she is entered to win a $50 or $100 Visa gift card each month and a $1000 Visa gift card at the end of the year.

The promotion has been successful, said Tom Iacona, vice president of marketing. We increased the number of signature-based transactions from 1.1 million in 2003 to 1.3 million in 2004. Patriot’s non-interest income toaverage assets ratio increased 32 basis points to 1.69 percent during the same time period. The debit card promotion played a part in the rise.

University Federal Credit Union ($671M in Austin, TX)

University ran a swipe and win promotion a few years ago. It did not generate the expected results because members were not clear on the difference between PIN and signature-based transactions. Executives realized that they need to specificallypromote signature-based transactions the next time to encourage specific member behavior.

University’s executive team is now considering offering a rewards program to do just this. Our challenge is deciding how much of the interchange income we should give back to members, said Brad Shoff, senior manager of remote delivery.University calculates that its signature transactions are on average five times as profitable as PIN-based transactions. Therefore, it is in their best interest to offer a program that encourages signature transactions.


Citibank recognized that offering a rewards program for both their debit and credit cards helps to increase member usage and their interchange income. As a result, the bank launched its Thank You rewards program in July 2004. It designed theprogram so that the more active accounts a customer has, the more points s/he will generate each month. For example, customers can combine the points on their debit and credit cards and use them toward a single prize. Customers can redeem their rewardspoints online or via phone for a variety of products that include flat-screen televisions, concert tickets and golf passes.

Learn more about innovative debit card strategies in the webinar recording Just Debit: Creating a Successful Debit Card Program, sponsored by the Callahan Center for Credit Union Leadership and Certegy.

April 26, 2016

Keep Reading

View all posts in:
More on:
Scroll to Top
Verified by MonsterInsights