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Card Control: are banks missing an opportunity for customer engagement?

What is Card Control?

The last 3 years has seen most if not all of the major banks offering their customers some form of card freeze option: control card. It is the ability for a user to temporarily freeze or suspend their credit or debit card by simply clicking that option in their banking app. This simple click, matched with a clever advertising slogan brings comfort and reassurance to millions of card users.

Card Control: A great idea, that could be better

The accepted thinking is that card control makes the user part of the fraud protection effort because they are usually the first ones to know if their card is lost or stolen. 

However, with the exception of a couple of the neo banks, the card control function is hidden a number of clicks away. If this is a feature that saves the user (and the bank) from the hassle and expense of cancelling and re-issuing a card, then surely it would be better to have it easily accessible?

Secondly, freezing a card does not necessarily freeze all payments from that card. It may still allow things a like ApplePay for example, or it may allow regular scheduled payments to continue. These things are not necessarily bad…as long as the user knows what is happening. But this gets to the nub of the matter. The ability to freeze your card is the immediate knee jerk response to having left it in the Uber. However, the subsequent messages that follow are where the real value lies.

Card Control: Adding real value when combined with notifications

Many of the banks offer a messaging service when you use your card. This is extremely useful for making sure that what you thought you spent is what has been taken from your account. It becomes even more valuable, and a validation of your decision to freeze your card, if you get a message saying that your card was used but declined, after you have frozen it. So far so good. But what happens if you get no messages? What happens if you don’t find your card and also get no messages? What do you do? Do you cancel? How do you cancel?

What happens if you find it, but forget to unfreeze it? No likes to be told their transaction has been declined for a card they know perfectly well should be OK. How many people have the cool to stand at a busy checkout, open their card app, search for the freeze function, see if they need to unfreeze it and then try again.

Card Control as part of a Customer Engagement strategy

So why do most banks not consider that the freezing and unfreezing of a card could be so much more that a last resort action when a card is lost.

In Germany for example it is not unusual to have your card frozen all of the time, then when you want to make a purchase, you un-freeze it, pay and freeze again. Real-time networks and good app design allow this behaviour to be painless and quick. But even if this is not the case, card control, the management of the freezing and unfreezing process, is an ideal way for a bank to show how they are looking after your interests. A simple message saying “have you found your card yet”, “Do you want to cancel and re-order”, “Please remember your card is frozen” could save unnecessary embarrassment, and most importantly re-enforce that using this card above the others is the safe and wise thing to do. We have gone past the stage when simply providing cool functionality puts you ahead of your competitors. It is now about how banks build these card control functions into their conversations with customers and start to be smart about how they show value.

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