ICBA Payments Solutions

Card Basics

ICBA Payments' Automated Card Expert (ACE) gives you the tools you need to run comprehensive financial analyses of your community bank’s credit card portfolio.

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How to Get Started

Establishing an image brand for your community bank and credit card to better position your product in the marketplace. 


One of the biggest challenges community banks face is a lack of brand recognition. An effective brand goes beyond the name a bank gives a product or service. It describes your bank's commitment and goals.

Branding makes your bank synonymous with an image that is important to both your current and potential customers. The recent barrage of negative publicity surrounding large issuers finds these banks sitting in the catbird seat.

Community banks, with competitive APRs and low/no fees, have an opportunity to capture those consumers who are fed up with APR games and hidden penalty fees. When the dust settles, the banks with the strongest brand recognition and brand loyalty stand to be the big winners.  


  • Differentiates you from the competition. 

  • Promotes key values to your customers. 

  • Creates a positive image for your bank and its products.

Identify your competition and outline what their programs include in order to determine where you are and how to make your card program a success. 


  • Keep a File - Begin keeping a file on all direct mail and advertisements for competitor’s cards that appear in your market area. Develop a grid that lists each card that comes to your attention —both local and national —along with its rate, enhancements, usage incentives (such as introductory rates), and fees. Be sure to note special promotions and dated offers. 

  • Analyze your Data - Prepare an analysis of cards that will compete with yours, by examining competitors’ offers in these respects: 

    • Are there any repeated or common themes among them? 

    • Which offer do you consider most attractive? Why? 

    • Are there card features that are so widely offered that you believe you must offer them in order to compete? 

    • Which features do you consider the greatest challenge to your bank’s card? 

    • What can you do to meet that challenge? 

    • Are there other local cards which you must compete against? 

    • Do you discern any major gaps in competitors’ products—that is, an attractive benefit that they are not offering? 

    • What do you believe will make your card competitive in your marketplace? 

  • Conduct a Survey - You may find it helpful to conduct a market survey, especially if you are planning to launch a new credit card. You can also run a survey on consumer acceptance of your existing card product. This need not be a costly project. You can distribute survey forms to one or more of these audiences: 

    • Customers - as a lobby display, handout at the drive-up window, or statement stuffer 

    • Employees - using standard staff communication channels 

    • Stockholders - by mail 

    • Directors - by mail or as a meeting handout 

    • Purchased list that represents local market 

    • DDA customers 

    • Internet banking customers 

Explain that your bank is planning to introduce a credit card (or evaluating an existing one) and ask for information to assist you. In any situation where you ask that the survey be returned by mail, include a prepaid-postage envelope. In every situation, assure respondents that the information will be kept confidential and used only for the stated purpose.

  • Understand and Use Your Data - The purpose is to provide you with a map to make decisions about your program offer(s). You do not have to take every bit of information and try to create a card offer that is all things to all members. That is an impossible task. However, analyzing this data will reveal some clear roads to follow. 

    • Pricing - Your competition will definitely effect your pricing strategy. If you want to be the lowest or highest priced, the grid form will define that direction. 

    • Insurance - Insurance offers you an opportunity to meet customers' benefit needs and can be closely aligned to their card usage patterns. Credit insurance and travel accident insurance is offered on most card plans, as well as many other insurance products. Your grid will give you good information on which to base your decisions. 

    • Enhancements - Cards with value-added offers have become popular with customers because they often present benefits that appeal to a particular individual. They develop a personal card usage strategy that is unique to their own needs. While not every benefit appeals to every customer, the grid will help you design an offer that appears to meet some of your customer's needs, most of the time. You can also use the grid to determine what you need to use to differentiate your card from that of your competition. 

  • Repeat Steps 1 –4 Periodically and Re-Evaluate your Decisions - The card market is large and profitable. That means it is -- and most like will always be -- dynamic. Make it a habit to gather information from every possible source and continue to update your competitive information files and grid. 

Despite all of the card choices available in today's marketplace, remember that you -- not the large regional/national banks or other financial institutions -- have the relationship with your customers. Offer the attractive card benefits your customers want and your cards will rise to the top of the wallet.