New Study Finds Debit Card Reward Programs Not as Important as Once Thought

by Mercator Advisory Group 0

When the new interchange fee cap was announced last month, many predicted the end of the debit card rewards program as we currently know it. However a new study released by business research firm Mintel Compermedia found that 47 percent of respondents who participate in their financial institution’s rewards program have actually never redeemed their points. The survey divided respondents into three groups, heavy reward program users (consumers who redeemed their points about once a month); medium users who redeemed every few months, and lastly light users who redeemed their points about once a year. According to the survey results 36 percent of heavy redeemers, 30 percent of medium redeemers, and 55 percent of light redeemers responded that even if their bank eliminated their rewards program they would still use their debit card in the same fashion.

“Obviously, a couple different types of people fall into the group who never redeem debit rewards points — some are saving up for something bigger, while others simply haven’t accumulated enough points,” says Susan Wolfe, vice president of financial services at Mintel Compermedia in Chicago.

“However, a number of people participate in a debit rewards program because it’s so easy to sign up, but never use the program again. If so, it indicates that the rewards program isn’t working as a way to instill loyalty.” Wolfe said.

“Overall, rewards aren’t going away, and many banks will continue to offer and promote these programs,” she said. “But we will see a shift in that rewards are offered as a benefit to different levels of customers and in that way, they will become part of an overall loyalty program—rather than just a debit rewards program,” continued Wolfe.

Beyond the surprising statistics that would suggest that consumer outrage over the removal of reward programs will be minimal, if not nonexistent, Wolfe puts forth the intriguing concept of an overall loyalty program. With banks and other financial institutions unable to financially support debit card rewards programs with the new interchange fee cap, these institutions will have to discover other methods of not only retaining existing customers, but also attracting new customers to their programs and accounts.

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