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Ways to Build and Elevate Your Card Program

Today’s payment card environment is undoubtedly complex and competitive, but it pulses with possibility. Identifying a card program’s competitive edge is key to maintaining top-of-wallet status and fulfilling cardholders’ expectations. Before we dive into ways that issuers can extend their brand and stand out among the competition, it is essential that issuers have built a solid card program foundation and selected the right issuance approach.

Physical cards can be a differentiating factor, and in the case of an online-only FI or fintech, the card may become the singular point of offline physical engagement with the cardholder. Unique card designs like those with colored cores or vertical orientations can help an issuer differentiate its brand in the marketplace. What’s more, nontraditional card materials like embedded metal, recovered ocean-bound plastic, or other upcycled plastics have risen in popularity. According to a 2021 CPI Consumer Insights study of 2,215 consumers with credit and debit cards, 47% of respondents indicate that they would switch to a different issuer if they were to offer a card made with landfill-bound plastic.*

The physical card may also represent an extension of the issuer’s values. Consumer research conducted in 2020 found that 59% of consumers trust a company to act with society’s best interest in mind, and 90% expect companies to clearly state their values, but only half feel this is common practice. These findings reiterate the importance of addressing the needs and interests of an issuer’s target audience. Raising these branding and values considerations at the project’s inception can help account for today’s market and tomorrow’s trends.

Another way to stand out is with matching carriers, collateral, postcards, or envelopes. Card “unboxing” experiences have grown in popularity, with millions of hits on social platforms. This widespread enthusiasm has resulted in an increased focus on card packaging, shipping, and delivery. According to Keypoint Intelligence, 77% of companies that ship products directly to consumers report that they are striving to enhance the “unboxing experience.” Another Keypoint Intelligence study also shows that gift-like packaging improves the customer experience. Packaging options might include sustainable materials, custom boxes, pull-opens and popups, high-end papers, or non-standard envelope sizes. Plus, print-on-demand (POD) technologies now allow for the customization of card carriers, activation stickers, and inserts that send targeted, direct messaging to recipients. Specialized “match and attach” processes allow for a variety of inserts, such as state-specific terms and conditions (T&Cs) or specific marketing messages.

Whichever options you choose to explore, consulting with a single-source provider that is aligned with your culture and values and has the expertise and ability to streamline operations will go a long way in enhancing efficiency and strengthening interchange revenue opportunities.

*CPI Consumer Insights Study, Wave 3, conducted by an independent research firm. September 2021, n2215

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About the author

John Lowe

President and Chief Executive Officer
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