Credit Cards, Debit Cards, and Checking

Revenue vs. Relationship Building

Custom and Combined Rewards

Key Finding from the Report:

Results from SYNERGISTICS 2014 study, Optimizing Reward Programs, revealed the extent of participation in various reward programs.  Credit card reward programs were most widespread, followed by debit card and checking relationship rewards. The 2016 survey will reveal any change in consumer participation in various reward programs.

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Highlights of the Study

This study evaluates the consumer perspective on reward programs for financial services including credit and debit cards and checking.  It examines reaction to pricing, custom reward programs, and combined reward programs.

National Internet Survey – 1,000 consumers age 18 or older.

Key Dates

June 24, 2016 – Charter fee/Intro pricing ends.

June 24, 2016 – Final acceptance of comments on questionnaire.

September 2016 – Project Report available.

Strategic Questions

  • How should financial institutions evaluate and assess the current state of their reward programs? What results are the best measures of success – greater market share, strengthened relationships, or increased fee income?
  • What is consumers’ current behavior profile in terms of usage of reward credit cards? Is usage of multiple reward cards a factor in the market and what is driving this?  Is there revenue potential in marketing reward cards?  Do premium or prestige credit cards represent the next step in reward credit cards?
  • Is there potential for a resurgence in debit card rewards? To what extent do consumers participate in these programs and how much appeal do they have?  Are combined debit and credit card reward programs a viable option?
  • How strong is the potential for relationship-based reward programs tied to checking activity? What has been the experience of consumers with these programs?  Are these programs effective in terms of increased customer activity, new account openings, and relationship retention?
  • What is the current attitudinal and behavioral environment impacting the design and positioning of reward programs? Do consumers prefer lower-value rewards that are given quickly or those with higher value that build over time?  What perceived advantages or benefits can be incorporated into marketing strategies and tactics?
  • What is the experience with and potential for innovative reward programs and delivery methods — including customized rewards, experiential rewards, and targeted messages or alerts based on spending patterns and preferences? Is there receptivity to mobile apps for managing and optimizing reward programs?
  • Do certain reward programs appeal to specific market segments in a way that can be used for positioning and targeting?  Are there consumer segments that represent wider potential for strengthened relationships or revenue opportunities?

Research Issues

  • Rewards have become an almost essential element for many financial services, particularly card products.  They have become an expectation among consumers and now represent the cost of doing business for many providers.  Over the years, the types of rewards that are popular have fluctuated, being influenced by economic factors and changing consumer opinions.  Are certain types of rewards now more popular to certain age and household income segments.
  • Rewards can be associated with credit cards, debit cards, checking accounts, and various other financial accounts and services.  Some reward programs are tied to balances, while others depend on frequency or volume of product or channel usage.  In some cases, consumers have the option to customize their reward experience by selecting rewards or other features of a product or service.  In addition, rewards may be combined based on usage of multiple financial accounts and services – such as usage of credit and debit cards.
  • In developing reward programs, providers need to identify their objectives – fee revenue, account acquisition or customer loyalty and retention.  This study examines consumer usage of and reaction to reward programs for financial services such as credit cards, debit cards, and checking accounts. Relationship and balanced-based rewards, as well as opportunities for fee revenue and account retention and acquisition are evaluated.  This study will help providers gain an understanding of consumer preferences, attitudes, expectations, and behavior patterns, which will assist providers in revitalizing their reward programs. [F245]


The technology explosion of the past decade has provided consumers with a multitude of ways to handle banking matters from the branch to ATMs and PC and mobile banking.  With this increased menu of channels, it would be logical to assume that some methods may fall into disuse.  However, consumers just seem to assimilate the new channels into their banking repertoire, according to a recent survey by SYNERGISTICS Research entitled, Omni-Channel Strategies for Financial Services.  According to findings from the survey of 1,000 Internet households, the proportion of consumers using a larger number of channels has increased dramatically over the past five years.  Three-fourths in the current survey use four to six of the channels included in the analysis (branches, ATMs, automated telephone systems, telephone calls to representatives, PC banking, and mobile banking).  This compares with four in ten who did so in 2011, representing an increase of 80% in five years.  Only one in seven in the current survey use three banking methods and one-tenth use one to two, both representing declines from 2011.

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Genie M. Driskill, COO of SYNERGISTICS, stated, “Today, consumers can interact with their financial services providers using a multitude of channels.  There are traditional channels associated with financial activity including the branch, telephone, and ATMs, as well as more recent options such as mobile and PC banking.  Consumers often use a mix of channels for simple transactions, customer service activities, and for shopping and obtaining financial products and services.  Our data has consistently shown that consumers are largely additive in their channel usage, and do not abandon channels when new ones are introduced.  This is made quite clear by the growth in the proportion of consumers using a large number of channels.  As a result, providers are faced with the challenge of developing integrated omni-channel strategies in order to meet the needs of today’s consumers who expect to perform financial activities when, where, and how it is most convenient for them.  Information content and the consumer’s experience need to be consistent across channels.”

These are among the findings from SYNERGISTICS study, Omni-Channel Strategies for Financial Services, featuring online interviews with 1,000 consumers age 18 or older.  This study evaluates consumer usage of various channels – from traditional branches and ATMs to online and mobile methods. It will assist providers in maximizing their omni-channel programs.


Consumer Experience

Education and Communication Strategies

Security Measures and Privacy Policies

Key Finding from the Report:

Results from SYNERGISTICS 2014 study, Security and Privacy Issues in a Digital Age, found that a significant minority of Internet households have experienced some type of fraud or identity theft, an increase since 2006.

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Highlights of the Study

This study examines consumer experience with security and privacy issues related to financial accounts and services.  Consumer reaction to education and communication programs, security measures, and privacy policies is also assessed.

National Internet Survey – 992 consumers age 18 or older.

Key Dates


Spring 2016 – Project Report available.

Strategic Questions

  • How do consumers approach security and privacy on a daily basis, if at all?  Have activities such as shredding documents, monitoring balances, opting out of direct mail, and regularly changing passwords become commonplace?  Is there now more concern about financial security and privacy in comparison to two years ago?
  • Which channels for conducting banking activities are consumers most concerned about in terms of security and privacy?  What are consumers’ top concerns for online banking and bill payment?  How wide is consumers’ actual experience with online shopping fraud, identity theft, or account fraud?  Can providers implement measures or procedures that consumers will see as valuable to improve security?
  • Do the privacy policies of financial providers receive any attention from customers?  How proactive are consumers in terms of choosing how personal information is shared by their providers or in opting in or out of receiving marketing messages?  How satisfied are consumers with the security and privacy measures of their financial providers?
  • Do consumers use credit report monitoring services?  Is identity theft insurance widely used?  What providers are used for these services?  How wide is the potential for future adoption?
  • Have security and privacy concerns affected consumers’ payment card behavior?  Are they aware of the liability associated with fraudulent use of their debit or credit cards?  Do they use one particular card for online shopping?  How receptive are they to an “on/off” capability?
  • How do consumers view biometric forms of identification such as fingerprint scanners, facial recognition, or voice recognition?  Are these seen as viable for accessing a payment account at the point of sale or accessing accounts online?
  • Are security and privacy concerns generally widespread or are they heightened among certain demographic or behavioral segments?  Which segments might be more prone to adopt advanced security capabilities such as biometrics?

Research Issues

  • Keeping fraudsters at bay is becoming more difficult in the face of evolving technology, and financial institutions are constantly evaluating new ways to keep their customers’ financial information safe and secure.  Recent security breaches at retailers and other organizations have heightened consumers’ awareness and sensitivity to the possibility that their personal and financial information could be compromised.
  • In response to rising fraudulent activity, many providers have been intensifying their security tactics and exploring new techniques to safeguard consumers’ personal and financial information.  Some providers are considering biometric security measures as a replacement for traditional usernames and passwords.  Many have implemented fraud education and awareness pages on their websites to inform and educate consumers on how to protect themselves from fraudulent activity such as ATM card skimming, phishing, and ID theft.
  • Credit report monitoring, fraud alerts, and identity theft insurance are also available for consumers through various financial institutions and other agencies.  Privacy policies are important in this security-conscious environment.  Some financial institutions are seeking to improve these notices by making them more consumer friendly.  It is important for providers to gain a clear understanding of the current consumer perspective and experience with regard to security and privacy issues in order to optimize their strategies for the future. [A86]


– “Banks Ramp Up Push for Home-Equity Lines” – The Wall Street Journal, March 26, 2016


– “Home Equity Credit Lines Boom 20% in 2015” – USA Today, March 28, 2016

Strategic Issues in the Home Equity Market

  • For retail banks, the home equity market is extremely important.  It is an attractive market in terms of the types of borrowers it draws – serious, upper- income consumers.  Delinquencies are low compared to other forms of lending.  For both borrowers and lenders, it is a win-win.
  • This monitor has tracked ongoing trends and new developments in the home equity credit market over its various waves since its inception.  A primary objective each year is to gauge the overall size of the market – as defined by current users and prospects.  Recent findings have suggested an improving market in conjunction with a recovering housing market; ongoing analysis of that trend is of critical importance.
  • Key measures assessed over time include activation and utilization rates of revolving equity lines, the purposes of using loans and lines, important criteria in choosing providers and products, response to fees and other pricing, and channel usage for marketing, acquisition, and customer service.  Of special interest is ongoing analysis of the perspectives and intentions of equity credit ex-users, with an emphasis on strategies and tactics for re-marketing. SYNERGISTICS survey will provide a greater understanding of the consumer perception and usage of home equity credit.

Key Finding from a Recent SYNERGISTICS Survey:

Findings from SYNERGISTICS previous reports in the Home Equity Lending Monitor Series (2002 to 2015) revealed that the proportion of homeowners who have home equity credit has been stable.

HELM 2016 Prop Graphic

Research Description and Methodology

The Home Equity Lending Monitor was launched in 2001 to track and measure important issues in the home equity lending market.  This current project is the sixteenth in the series. The Monitor features a number of multiphase research elements including a background research, an extensive national consumer survey, a client presentation, and a strategically oriented project report.  This annual monitor will benefit the entire home equity team including market research, product management, database marketing, communications and advertising, and risk management.

National Internet Survey – 1,000 total interviews with homeowners including 450 equity loan/line holders and 150 equity loan/line prospects.  For comparison purposes, and to permit tracking from previous telephone surveys, the survey will be conducted using a two-prong approach with 80% of the interviews being conducted via the Internet and 20% by telephone.


Key Dates and Sponsorship

May 27, 2016 – Final acceptance of comments on questionnaire.

May 27, 2016 – Charter fee/ Intro pricing date.

November 2016 – Project Report available.


Strategic Questions

  • Size the home equity market and evaluate trends in a changing environment.
  • Assess the impact of the housing and credit markets on consumer behavior.
  • Determine provider selection factors and measure satisfaction with current and/or past equity loan providers.
  • Identify key target markets.
  • Monitor the changing mix of marketing and distribution channels used for home equity lending.
  • Evaluate product features, new product concepts, and pricing structures.
  • Examine the consumer decision making process regarding home equity credit and competing credit products.
  • Identify strategies for acquisition, activation, retention, and remarketing.