12 questions to guide your debit card program

Debit cards are an attractive way to engage more customers, more often. Consumers can be debt-wary, un- or under-banked, or are simply looking to earn more loyalty points for your rewards program. Debit cards can be complementary to an existing co-branded credit card program, or offered as a stand-alone solution. With many large travel & hospitality and retailers already offering debit cards, we break down how to add debit for your customers.

Here are the 12 questions we hear most often about launching a debit card program.

1. What do we need to include in our debit card tech stack?

Building this in-house would require integrating functions including general ledger & accounting, account creation and configuration, card issuance & management, data reporting, treasury management, legal, compliance and regulatory requirements, as well as managing the program. From a technical perspective, that may require up to 17 vendors. (Or with Alviere, just one, via a single API.


2. Is it better to go with an issuer processing vendor or a program management platform (PMP) for a card program?

This comes down to a build vs. buy decision. If building your own card program, working directly with an issuer processor is a requirement, however, you’ll need to ensure internal teams can manage the functions and the relationship directly. Alternatively, working with a program management platform encompasses all required functions and technology with one vendor and a single agreement. A great resource is the recent Totavi Debit Card Program Management Platform Market Analysis.


3. How should we define a minimum viable product (MVP) for a card program?

There’s a temptation when offering financial products to build it all at once. Then launch and learn. We’ve found that the most successful programs are those that focus on the core objectives and build out using a phased approach. When offering cards, the first phase can be full functionality for only one segment of customers, or start with digital-first, adding features and expanding access as the program progresses. Learning what works — both internally and from your customers — is key to the long-term success of your program.


4. What’s an average timeline to launch?

With an embedded finance provider, a card program can be live in six weeks. Physical card printing is typically the longest timeline, taking from eight to 12 weeks. However, during that time, you can offer virtual cards and wallets, and begin promotions to your customers.


5. What existing customer segments should we target?

This is directly correlated to the objectives for the card program. What is the goal of the program? Is there a specific segment of customers targeted for the card offer? Is the first phase a small subset of customers? Will the card program be launched through the loyalty program or as a stand-alone? Throughout design, these are critical internal discussions to gather data on buyer characteristics, customer demographics, and possibly assessing interest through surveys or focus groups.


6. Where does the new card sign-up fit into our existing customer workflows?

If you’re currently offering a credit card, you can add a debit card to this process either at the application start, or when a customer is denied a credit card by the issuing bank. Without raising customer acquisition costs, customers can be routed to the debit card offering through existing acquisition channels, including apps and website.


7. What types of incentives should we offer?

Debit card offers can mirror existing credit promotions, or vary, as there’s no additional acquisition cost or interchange fees to overcome. Offering points or rewards for sign-up, accelerators for specific actions (new product promotion), and merchant-funded rewards (MFRs) are levers available at program inception and throughout the life of the program.


8. What are the most effective go-to-market tactics?

Event-based offers capture interest at the point of interaction, when customers are buying from you. Offering a debit option to a credit application process will also drive uptake. Additional options include all typical go-to-market activities like in-app advertising, in-person interactions, push notifications, and special sales events. 


9. What funding options should we offer?

Debit is a simpler product, with no risk to the user of overspending, or unknown fees and interest. But that doesn’t limit the funding options for users. Catering to a wide range of customer preferences, funding should include direct deposit, bank transfer, cash loading, card loading, and mobile check deposit. These options can also be added post-initial launch as directed by your customers’ preferences.


10. What are the different ways loyalty members can earn points with cards?

It’s a straightforward tie-in with existing loyalty programs, leveraging apps and outreach. Loyalty members can earn points by holding balance, using the card for everyday purchases, and through special, tailored promotions. MFRs are an additional dimension for earning, as they can be exponentially increased for the dollars spent, all at no cost to you. 


11. How much KYC do we need for card issuance?

Cards require oversight to limit fraud, so the primary actions are to capture applicant identity for sanctions review. Some of the required information may exist as part of your loyalty program, or within your CRM.  In this blog post, our Chief Compliance & Risk Officer describes the requirements for each kind of program, including debit cards.


12. How do we ensure compliance with consumer financial services regulations?

This is a key distinction with PMPs, as they offer certainty for regulatory compliance, often with a dedicated internal compliance team, acting on behalf of their clients. In this Alviere Experts Series, we cover the three pillars of risk: consumer management, marketing compliance, and preventing financial crimes.


If you're ready to take the next step, the Launch & Implementation Guide is a great resource.  Or contact us, we're always ready to talk about how to make your card program a success.

Written by Alviere