Issuers Report Mobile Payments Talk is Turning to Action

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2015 Debit Issuer Study Respondents Agree Apple Pay Changes the Mobile Payments Game

It wasn’t so long ago that some questioned whether the chatter surrounding mobile payments was little more than hollow hype. What a difference the entry of a major player like Apple makes.

Respondents to the 2015 Debit Issuer Study, commissioned by PULSE, are broadly united in their enthusiasm about mobile payments now. Approximately 85 percent either currently participate or plan to participate this year in a mobile payments initiative.

Participation in Mobile Payments

There is less certainty about how big mobile payments will be. More than 70 percent of issuers project that mobile transactions will make up more than 15 percent of their debit payments volume within the next five years. About 40 percent project that mobile payments will represent more than 25 percent of volume over that time.

As one representative of a community bank predicted, “More participants in the market, along with additional devices being enabled, will drive growth to at least 25 percent.”

Apple Pay a Catalyst

The launch of Apple Pay was a major turning point for the payments industry. More than 80 percent of respondents agreed that Apple Pay is a game changer. The study reports on the strong issuer interest and adoption:

  • Over half of large banks currently have debit cards that are capable of being registered for Apple Pay.
  • Overall, 30 percent of financial institutions in the study have debit cards that are Apple Pay-capable.
  • Perhaps just as telling is that only three percent of financial institutions have no plans to pursue Apple Pay.

The indisputable fact is that the vast majority of all financial institutions want to be in Apple Pay.

One study respondent from a community bank described the forces driving its push toward mobile payments this way:

“With all the big banks doing ads, we don’t want to fall behind. We want to make [Apple Pay] available to avoid losing revenue and keep up with the Joneses.”

Even so, initial use of Apple Pay was very low. At the time of the study, only 0.7 percent of eligible debit cards had been loaded into Apple Pay. On average, debit cards loaded into Apple Pay were used for 0.3 Apple Pay transactions per month in January 2015.

Branded Wallets Take Backseat

When asked whether they would rather promote their brand by pushing their own branded wallet or achieve top-of-wallet status in a third-party wallet, four out of five respondents said they prefer the latter. While more than half said they are interested in developing their own branded mobile wallet, 94 percent said they are interested in making their card top-of-wallet in a third-party wallet.

Clearly, the shockwaves from Apple Pay – and expectations that other third-party wallet players, like Samsung Pay and Android Pay, will add to market momentum – have most financial institutions applying great value to visibility in third-party wallets.

Remaining Uncertainties

The majority of issuers say they are uncertain about whether mobile payments will help or hurt their business.

Nearly 60 percent, say it all comes down to the bottom line. If the incremental costs from customer service, Apple fees and tokenization fees can be offset by savings from fraud mitigation and potential reduction in future card issuance costs, it could be a plus.

While a small percentage of study respondents say they expect mobile payments will hurt financial institutions by reducing profit per transaction, more than one in three said it will help. They are bullish about the potential for making transactions more secure and attracting higher-profit customers.

PULSE participants can learn more about the study’s insights into the debit industry, including an executive brief on mobile payments, in the Debit Resource Center section of the PULSE website (login required).

Top 10 Takeaways from the 2015 Debit Issuer Study

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Study Finds Surprising Stability Amid Rapidly Changing Debit Landscape

PULSE 2015 Debit Issuer StudyThe 10th annual Debit Issuer Study, commissioned by PULSE and conducted by Oliver Wyman, is worth spending some time digesting. We have been sifting through the data for many weeks. Every time we revisit the report, we find something new that’s interesting and sometimes surprising. Below are the top 10 things we’ve learned about debit economics and performance from the 2015 study:

1. Consumer preference for debit is strong and likely to continue on its current trajectory. Per-card use grew 5 percent year-over-year, as consumers continued to migrate payments to debit from cash and checks.

2. Debit card performance is generally positive. This is typically dominated by three metrics: penetration, activation and usage (PAU). The study found penetration and active rates are holding steady, while usage continues to grow. The average active cardholder performs 21.2 debit transactions per month. This metric has increased at a compound annual rate of 2.8 percent since the study began.

3. Best-in-class issuers had significantly more transaction volume than their peers. Issuers in the top quartile averaged 29.3 transactions per active card per month, compared to an average of 21.2 for all issuers and 15.8 for the bottom quartile.

4. The vast majority of issuers – both regulated and exempt – maintain profitable debit programs. Nearly 80 percent of regulated issuers and 89 percent of exempt issuers reported positive debit card profit and loss statements.

5. The beauty of an authentication method is in the eye of the beholder. Regulated and exempt issuers have a difference of opinion when it comes to PIN versus signature. Regulated issuers see higher profits on PIN transactions than on signature transactions ($0.21 vs. $0.15), due to the lower cost structure and comparable interchange revenue. Exempt issuers achieve higher profits on signature transactions, where the higher interchange rate ($0.48) offsets the increased third-party processing and fraud costs.

6. Many issuers expect an increase in fraud loss rates for signature. Citing migration to card-not-present transactions following EMV adoption and a ramp-up in fraud prior to the EMV roll-out, a plurality of issuers – 47 percent – expect signature fraud to increase in the next two years, while most expect PIN fraud loss rates to stay the same.

7. Growing the base of debit cardholders is a constant challenge. The average financial institution experiences churn of about one in five debit cards annually. One interesting observation is that issuers that have a high acquisition rate typically also have a high attrition rate. Issuers that have a relatively lower acquisition rate also have a relatively lower attrition rate. The study suggests that in the face of the constant churn of cardholders this core component of growth is essential.

8. When asked for their average ticket size, financial institutions revealed that not all debit programs are equal. While overall the average ticket size was $37 for a second straight year, the highest reported average ticket size exceeded $60, which was over twice the lowest reported average ticket size at about $26. Fifty-four percent of debit transactions were under $20.

9. Declining consumer preference for paying with cash is showing up at the ATM. On average, each active debit card was used two times per month to withdraw cash from ATMs, which is down significantly from a decade ago. The average ATM withdrawal amount was $118.

10. Exempt and regulated issuers differ somewhat on the key challenges ahead. Fraud and regulation are seen by both groups as the top challenges in the year ahead. However, while regulated institutions also are concerned about maintaining margins, their exempt peers worry more about competition from mobile wallet providers and non-FIs.

To learn more about the state of the debit industry, PULSE participants can view an executive summary of the Debit Issuer Study on the Debit Resource Center page of our website.

PULSE PAY Express Compliance Deadline October 1, 2015

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Best Practices for Transaction Monitoring – Treat It Like Signature


With the issuer deadline to support PULSE PAY® Express (PPE) transactions little more than two months away, we’re helping financial institution participants by sharing strategies for handling PINless and signature debit transactions from PULSE.

PPE, which offers PULSE participants a PINless and signature routing alternative for card-present and card-not-present transactions, is part of an industry-wide trend toward the convergence of PIN and signature processing and the rise in transactions without verification. With highly competitive interchange and low network fees, PPE can deliver better net economics to issuers and merchants alike.

Last month, we provided some recommendations to ensure the best cardholder experience by treating PINless and signature transactions from PULSE the same as PINless and signature transactions from traditional signature networks like Discover, MasterCard and Visa. This is particularly important when it comes to rewards, fees and transaction monitoring.

This time, we want to share additional details about transaction monitoring strategies for PPE. After all, PPE is simply an alternative routing choice for transactions that would otherwise route via these traditional signature networks. It’s a good idea to apply the same diligence:

  • Transaction monitoring services – Use services via your processor and network that monitor transactions, alert of suspicious activity and provide the ability to block transactions.
  • Card validation controls – Ensure your processor is validating card security codes, including CVC1/CVV1 for card-present transactions and CVC2/CVV2 for card-not-present transactions, and applies the ability to block transactions when codes do not validate.
  • Stand-in limits – Apply a maximum dollar value at which you are comfortable issuing automatic authorizations when your system is down or unavailable.
  • Card validation controls in stand-in – Have a redundant way to validate card security codes, including CVC1/CVV1 for card-present transactions and CVC2/CVV2 for card-not-present transactions, and the ability to block transaction when codes do not validate at times when your system is down or unavailable.

With some of the nation’s largest merchants using this routing option, PPE transactions are on the rise. Therefore, your institution should employ these strategies. To help, here are some specific patterns to watch for with any signature or PINless transaction:

  • Excessive Velocity Patterns – Excessive transactions on a single card in short intervals, at the same merchant or different merchants in close geographic proximity. In fact, 51 percent of fraud transactions compared to only 0.5 percent of valid transactions have three or more transactions in a four-hour time interval.
  • Card Testing Patterns – Low-dollar test transactions followed by high-dollar signature card-present transactions ($100 or more) at retail merchant locations.

While this might sound daunting, your processor should have monitoring services and rules for your PINless and signature transactions coming from traditional signature networks that they can apply to PPE. Again, PPE is simply an alternative routing choice for transactions that would otherwise route via these other networks. Additionally, all PPE transactions are monitored by PULSE DebitProtect® fraud mitigation services, with optional alerts and real-time authorization blocking available if your institution would like additional support.

Next month, we’ll offer more details about the superior economics associated with PPE. As a reminder, PULSE financial institution participants must support PPE transactions by October 1, 2015. On October 2, PULSE will begin enabling BINs into the PPE setting unless prior arrangements have been made.

Processors should already have completed PPE certification, so please contact your processor to ensure they are ready to receive PPE transactions on your behalf.

Visit the PPE page to learn more about how your institution benefits from PPE.

Debit is Debit – Think Differently to Ensure Consistent Cardholder Experience

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PULSE PAY® Express Offers PINless and Signature Debit Routing Alternative


The debit industry has changed dramatically in recent years, and in this new landscape, “debit is debit.” PIN and signature processing are converging, and transactions without verification have increased significantly.

PULSE PAY® Express (PPE) is part of this growing trend and offers PULSE participants a PINless and signature debit routing alternative for card-present and card-not-present transactions.

Both merchants and issuers benefit from the superior net economics PPE provides, as well as from the increased competition the new routing option creates. You may have noticed an increase in the number of PPE transactions. This is the result of some of the country’s largest retail and fast food chains implementing the service recently.

“Debit is debit” means financial institutions can no longer assume that all PULSE transactions are PIN-verified or that all traditional signature network transactions are signature-verified.

As this trend continues, issuers need to make informed decisions about handling debit transactions to ensure the best cardholder experience. Here are recommendations to consider:

  • Handle transactions based on the verification method used at the point of sale, not the network source.
  • Make PINless and signature verification transactions from PULSE eligible for the same debit rewards as similar transactions from traditional signature networks to prevent cardholder confusion.
  • While the vast majority of issuers do not charge PIN fees, those that do should re-evaluate the practice. Under Reg II, PIN transactions are more profitable for most issuers.
  • Experience has shown that establishing fees based on transaction network rather than the verification method leads to cardholder confusion.

Since “debit is debit,” PINless and signature transactions from PULSE should be treated the same as those from traditional signature networks. This also means the same diligence should be applied in securing PPE transactions. A follow-up email next month will discuss best practices on fraud mitigation steps for signature and PINless transactions.

As a reminder, PULSE financial institution participants must support PPE transactions by October 1, 2015. Processors should already have completed PPE certification, so please contact your processor to ensure they are ready to receive PPE transactions on your behalf by this date.

Customer Experience: Crucial to Understand and Enhance

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Barriers to Service

In the “Moment of Truth” – the moment that really matters to your customer – the customer experience offered by a financial institution can determine whether that customer stays or goes. A negative experience results in a one-in-five chance of losing that customer for good.

Customers want businesses to “know me, hear me, help me,” PULSE’s Annette Harris told participants in the latest PULSE Academy® webinar. Harris is director of marketing at PULSE and practice leader for PULSE InSights®, the company’s comprehensive consulting service for financial institutions.

“Customer experience is their interaction with you and how they feel and perceive that interaction to be from the outside in,” Harris said. “It is not what you think is going on but what they think is going on.”

It matters because enhancing the customer experience improves the bottom line. In this highly competitive environment, it is essential for financial institutions to measure customer interactions, optimize channels, reduce the cost of service and enable relationship-based one-to-one marketing.

Know Me

“Understanding where the customer wants to interact with you is key,” Harris said. Sending emails to a customer who never checks emails but is in the branch every week is a waste of money, for example.

Financial institutions can measure interactions in a number of ways, Harris says. It can be as simple as measuring on a one-to-five scale how much time customers spend in a contact center queue or whether they get personalized transfers from one customer agent to another.

Journey mapping is another tool for measuring the customer experience. Typically it includes a large flowchart showing every step in achieving an objective from the customer’s point of view. Whether opening a checking account or obtaining a loan, it can be invaluable to see the journey from the customer’s eyes. Doing so can determine areas of expertise and show gaps or other areas that need attention, Harris says.

Hear Me

Understanding the customer experience is often just a matter of listening. Financial institutions can capture the voice of the customer in verbatim comments through various interactions. While only one in five customers who are dissatisfied will complain, Harris said much could be learned from tone and words.

“Measure the full customer experience – their emotions, the effort they must put in to doing business and the usefulness of the interaction,” Harris said. Harsh words indicate one thing, or their tone may indicate they enjoy doing business with you.

Help Me

“I cannot emphasize enough that to create a successful customer experience program, it must be a priority throughout the financial institution,” Harris says. Customer experience must be part of everyone’s goals, and everyone should be empowered to foster a customer-centric culture.

Once alignment is in place and data is collected, the important step is to take action by prioritizing top solutions and implementing action plans. It’s a matter of continual measurement and communication.

PULSE InSights can perform a complimentary diagnostic assessment of the current customer experience at your institution. Interested PULSE participants can contact their account manager or send an email to pulseinsights@pulsenetwork.com.

For those who want to learn more, Harris recommends “Customer Experience 3.0: High-Profit Strategies in the Age of Techno Service” by John A. Goodman. PULSE participants can log into this and other webinars through the PULSE Webinars and Webcasts page.

Debit Portfolio Performance Have You Seeing Red?

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If you sometimes feel powerless to influence your financial institution’s debit portfolio performance, it is understandable. Many factors go into determining the strengths and weaknesses of a financial institution’s debit portfolio. But make no mistake: debit portfolio performance is something you can influence.

One of the most powerful advantages payment cards provide is the wealth of behavioral data they generate. Unfortunately, many financial institutions don’t analyze their transaction data to formulate strategies aimed at portfolio performance.

It is important to close the gap between having information and leveraging that information to seize opportunities. Using the data at your fingertips can help drive revenue-driving cardholder behaviors, retain profitable cardholders and increase your marketing efficiency.

With minimal effort, financial institutions can improve portfolio performance. Here are three immediate opportunities:

  • Increase debit usage in the everyday spend category.
  • Improve customer segmentation to tailor marketing efforts.
  • Pay closer attention to fraud loss ratios, including the difference between signature and PIN.

Everyday Spend

Whether the economy is booming or in a deep recession, consumers will need to pay for gas, groceries and utilities. Establishing debit as the payment method of choice for these purchases can have long-term benefits. The first step in assessing debit portfolio performance in everyday spend is to compare it with industry benchmarks. How can you increase everyday spend? Incentives work wonders. Determine the behavior you want to encourage and offer a gift card or a credit to their account.

Customer Segmentation

Don’t send the same message about the same offer to all cardholders at the same time. Through customer segmentation, you can target incentives more effectively. Check the 2014 Debit Issuer Study to see how your debit portfolio performance stacks up against peers. To increase transactions, tailor an incentive for those who only occasionally use their debit card. You don’t need to target everyone – just the cardholders who represent the greatest opportunity for improvement.

Fraud Loss Ratio

Compare the number and dollar value of PIN versus signature transactions per active card to quickly identify looming threats to debit portfolio profitability. Fraud loss ratio is typically higher on signature than on PIN, so if you are too heavily weighted on signature, its higher fraud losses could impact overall portfolio performance. If this is the case, a financial institution may want to promote PIN, especially to those cardholders who primarily use signature debit.

Start Improving Debit Portfolio Performance Now

The time to start using the powerful data at your fingertips to grow and improve your business is now. The first step is to access key metrics, including:

  • Debit card penetration
  • Activation
  • Average number of transactions
  • Average ticket
  • Average monthly volume per card
  • Attrition

Compare your financial institution’s performance to benchmarks and then develop your strategic plan to move the needle.

If your financial institution has had difficulty getting started with data analytics, take a look at PULSE InSights, a consulting service that leverages our more than 30 years of debit leadership to help financial institutions analyze data and improve their performance.

Selecting the Right Debit Rewards Program: What Financial Institutions Should Consider

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PULSE Debit Rewards

What’s the best debit rewards program for your financial institution?

A successful rewards program can drive greater card usage and spend

Merchant offers have become an increasingly attractive option for financial institutions seeking to reconfigure their debit rewards programs, but not all merchant offers programs are equal. Designing a program that’s right for your institution can make the difference between a successful rewards program that drives greater card usage and spend, and one that fails to engage cardholders.

What are the elements of a successful rewards program and how should issuers evaluate different merchant offers platforms? These issues are explored in “Merchant Offers: The Future of Debit Rewards” – a whitepaper prepared by Oliver Wyman exclusively for PULSE participants that examines the emerging debit rewards environment and competing merchant offers programs.

New Debit Rewards Landscape
According to PULSE’s 2014 Debit Issuer Study, nearly a third of “regulated issuers” now participate in merchant offers programs. While new regulations and reduced interchange revenue made traditional issuer-funded rewards programs unsustainable, the rationale for debit rewards – promote card spend and differentiate the underlying checking account – is as compelling as ever.

Providing incentives to cardholders without the associated cost has proved appealing even to “exempt issuers” – 22 percent now provide cardholders with merchant offers. Done right, a merchant offers program can create a win-win-win:

  • Merchants generate incremental sales by targeting offers to the right perspective customers
  • Financial institutions provide a value-added benefit to cardholders at little cost to the issuer, while supporting top-of-wallet card positioning
  • Cardholders receive valuable discounts on the goods they like to buy

Because it is difficult for any single issuer to sign up enough merchants directly for a rewards program, most have turned to third-party providers that connect merchants and issuers and provide the algorithms to identify and target the right offers to the right cardholders.

Selecting the right partner is crucial, and these are a few factors to consider in evaluating different merchant offers platforms and program design options:

  • How large is the network of merchants? Smaller issuers will have a regional or local footprint that makes localized offers more appealing to cardholders.
  • How do consumers receive the rewards? Mobile banking applications are becoming a common channel for rewards offers and allow for location-based targeting of offers.
  • How will your financial institution market the program? Simply creating a program isn’t enough – an effective marketing effort is essential to drive cardholder participation.

Program With Proven Results

In short, selecting a partner with the right technical skills and merchant relationships, as well as the ability to guide the issuer through the various program decisions, is the key to a successful rewards program.

On vital metrics such as cardholder engagement, merchant participation and driving incremental per-card revenue, the PULSE® Buzz Points™ platform has demonstrated market-leading results for both large and small issuers.

PULSE has worked with Buzz Points since 2012 to offer a turn-key merchant offers solution to network participants and in 2014, after successful marketplace outcomes, PULSE became a strategic investor in Buzz Points through DFS Services LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Discover Financial Services.

Buzz Points’ success rests on delivering superior cardholder experience and the program enjoys a much higher cardholder engagement rate than competitors. With an average of 4.8 payment cards in their wallets, consumers need a compelling reason to change their payment habits, and Buzz Points has proven bottom-line results:

  • $8 in additional monthly revenue for each participating account
  • $350 in additional monthly spend per cardholder compared to non-Buzz Points users
  • 10 more transactions per month for participating cardholders

“That additional spend isn’t everyone getting raise, that’s people not using the other 3.8 payment products in their wallet,” said Jay Valanju, Buzz Points founder and senior vice president, during a recent webinar presentation to PULSE participants. “Our program actually encourages redemption of coupons and offers to drive cardholder satisfaction. We want the end-user to be happy with the experience.”

Buzz Points handles set-up, implementation and management of the program behind the scenes. The turn-key platform includes web and mobile delivery channels for offers, marketing support and a merchant sign-up campaign focusing on local businesses in an issuer’s geographic footprint.

Thanks to success in driving incremental sales for Buzz Points merchants – participating cardholders typically double their spending at local businesses – Buzz Points has been able to build strong merchant networks for each financial institution.

PULSE participants can learn more about Buzz Points and listen to Valanju’s presentation by logging in to the “Webinars & Webcasts” page in the Knowledge area of our website. Participants can also download the whitepaper “Merchant Offers: The Future of Debit Rewards” on the Insights & Research page.

PULSE Introduces New Logo and Acceptance Mark

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Streamlined Design Reflects Support for All Debit Transactions, Affiliation with Discover

PULSE Logo Image

PULSE has unveiled a new corporate logo and acceptance mark. The new, more contemporary look preserves many elements of PULSE’s original marks while also identifying the network more closely with our parent company, Discover Financial Services, by featuring the familiar Discover orange.

“PULSE and the debit landscape have both changed considerably in recent years, and it was time for our brand identity to reflect those changes,” said PULSE President Dave Schneider. “At the same time, millions of cardholders know to look for the familiar PULSE logo at the point-of-sale and on ATMs, so our new look builds upon our existing strong brand equity.”

In recent years, PULSE has expanded beyond PIN debit to support the processing of the full range of cardholder verification methods (CVMs), including PINless Bill Pay, Internet PIN Debit, signature, no-signature and no-CVM transactions in both single and dual-message environments. PULSE has also worked to advance new technologies such as mobile payments, EMV chip cards and tokenization.

New Look, Same Commitment

PULSE participants may begin using the new acceptance mark on cards, signage and other materials immediately. Participants may exhaust any current inventory of card stock, ATM and point-of-sale terminal signage or other printed materials using the old mark.

The new acceptance mark may be downloaded at www.pulsenetwork.com/mark. The mark should be used in accordance with the PULSE Graphic Standards Manual, also available on the website.

The logo redesign is the first in the company’s 30-year history, said Steve Sievert, PULSE executive vice president for marketing and communications.

“PULSE has changed. Nowhere is that change been more evident than PULSE’s acknowledgement that ‘debit is debit,’ through which the organization has aggressively adjusted its product portfolio to accommodate the market forces diminishing the differences between PIN and signature debit,” Sievert said.

PULSE’s corporate logo and acceptance mark may be changing, but our commitment to the success of our participants remains the same. By offering a full spectrum of debit solutions and superior client service, our focus is on helping our participants remain competitive in an increasingly complex environment.

Improving Financial Literacy One Teacher at a Time

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Discover Grant Supports IBAT’s Teach the Teacher Program

The need for financial literacy has never been greater. And, the learning process begins with educating teachers as a necessary first step to helping young people acquire the financial knowledge and skills they need to prepare for successful futures.

To aid in that effort, Discover and PULSE are helping to expand a unique program designed to help teachers throughout Texas improve financial literacy. The Teach the Teacher Program provides Texas middle and high school teachers the knowledge and confidence to teach financial education effectively. It was designed by the Independent Bankers Association of Texas (IBAT) Education Foundation in collaboration with teachers.

Focus on Teachers

Studies indicate Texas has a financial literacy problem. The 2012 National Financial Capability Study conducted by FINRA Investor Education Foundation shows that when asked five questions about basic economic and financial concepts, 67 percent of Texas adults could not answer more than three questions correctly.

Educating teachers is a necessary first step to eliminating gaps in financial literacy among young people. In the 2013-2014 school year, the IBAT Education Foundation’s Teach the Teacher program reached an estimated 60,000 students through the approximately 300 Texas educators who attended the training.

The teachers participated in weekend workshops, where they learned instructional methods to help students grasp the basics of debit cards, credit scores, identity theft, savings and investment strategies and other topics. For 2014, PULSE was proud to help fund stipends for hundreds of teachers who attended the training. PULSE was the founding sponsor of Teach the Teacher and has been involved in the program since its inception.

Discover’s Commitment

The program will promote financial literacy to even more Texas students in 2015 thanks to a $75,000 grant from PULSE’s parent company, Discover Financial Services. The grant is part of Discover’s $10 million investment to further financial education in public high schools across the country. PULSE is contributing an additional $25,000 to support the program in 2015.

“We believe that it is impossible to eliminate gaps in financial literacy among young people without first educating teachers,” said Steve Sievert, PULSE Executive Vice President of Marketing and Communications. “Discover is proud to support this critical initiative to provide training to teachers so that their students can gain a greater understanding of personal finance to plan for a brighter financial future.”

These investments in Teach the Teacher are part of Discover’s Pathway to Financial Success program, which is committed to helping the next generation get the financial education they need to make informed decisions about money through grants designed to train teachers, raise awareness of the need for financial education, and by providing additional resources to parents and schools.

ABA Endorsement Strengthens Signature Debit Competition


Momentum Behind Discover Debit Means More Choice For Issuers

Competition and choice are essential to a healthy market, and the signature debit space is no exception. However, limited choice in a market traditionally dominated by two providers has exacerbated an already challenging debit environment for financial institutions.

Issuers benefit from increased competition in the signature debit market. That’s why the recent endorsement of Discover Debit by the American Bankers Association – through its subsidiary the Corporation for American Banking – as the signature debit brand of choice for its members is a positive development for all financial institutions.

The ABA endorsement shines a spotlight on this alternative to the status quo providers, one that offers superior value to issuers of all sizes.

“Our members are fast realizing that Discover Debit delivers the same acceptance as the other networks at a much lower cost to the issuer,” said William Kroll, executive vice president at the ABA. “The program’s straightforward billing, ease of use and lower network fees makes this a significant alternative for ABA members and is good for the banking industry as a whole.”

Continued Challenges

The ABA’s endorsement of Discover Debit as an option to the traditional signature networks comes at a time when changes occurring in debit are posing challenges for financial institutions and squeezing the profitability of their debit programs.

Regulations capping interchange fees for large institutions and mandating merchant control of transaction routing have led to reductions in interchange revenue for issuers large and small. In addition, new mandates by the traditional signature providers have resulted in the routing of PIN transactions to those networks rather than the issuer’s chosen PIN network. Because of these mandates, issuers are less able to optimize their network relationships.

In addition to regulatory pressures and anti-competitive mandates, recent high-profile data breaches and the cost of fraud to financial institutions have made payments security a top priority. And with financial institutions already contemplating card reissuance as they transition to EMV, there are more reasons than ever to reassess debit programs.

While issuers grapple with a changing payments landscape, consumer preference for paying with debit means this offering remains a strategic focus for banks and credit unions. As the primary customer touch point for financial institutions, debit is issuers’ doorway to growing relationships with account holders.

Issuer Choice

Addressing these challenges requires a competitive signature debit market where issuers get choices instead of mandates. In a space long overdue for disruption, the ABA’s high-profile endorsement of Discover Debit lends new prominence to the program – one that puts issuers’ needs first.

The Discover Debit approach is built on four principles:

  • Improved profitability through competitive interchange and lower fees
  • Simplified operating rules and fee transparency
  • Comprehensive fraud mitigation, featuring real-time alerting and authorization blocking
  • Unmatched program flexibility allowing issuers to feature their own brands

When a financial institution switches to Discover Debit, it gains an experienced provider that works to guide the implementation and reissue process, including marketing support designed to increase card activation and usage.