"We saw card personalization as part of our overall strategy into the Gen Y and youth market," explained Cary Anderson, CEO of the $102 million LA DOTD Federal Credit Union, headquartered in Baton Rouge, La.
The 70-year-old, 18,000-member credit union began life serving the employees of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development but has since branched out and officially changed its name to LA DOTD, Anderson explained. Parents and students in the East Baton Rouge schools are one of the CU's SEGs. Working with them, including setting up four student branches in different area schools, has given the credit union a better perspective to approach the youth market, he said.
"We actually had a youth council that we brought into the credit union to see our operation and see how we do things and to ask them what sorts of products and services they would like to see from their credit union," Anderson explained.
One of the youth council's ideas was a teen-specific debit card, linked to a teen account or a family account, called T-Power. The T-Power debit cards would carry specific rewards that teens would like from a debit card, primarily points for online music, like iTunes.
"Tunes work out very well as rewards for a debit card rewards program aimed at teens," Anderson explained. "The songs are very low cost and are something teens would really want to earn points to get."
The card personalization program would act as an add-on to the T-power program, though Anderson stressed LA DOTD would not only limit it to teens. "We see it as something which will be very popular with members from across our membership," he added, "not just teens."
LA DOTD will use the card-personalization program being offered by its processor, TNB Card Services, the card-processing arm of the CUSO Town North Bank. TNB has its program in beta testing now and expects to roll out the working version in June or July, according to Mitch Raymond, senior vice president for product development for TNB.
In the program, TNB will establish a Web site with LA DOTD's brand where credit union members will be able to upload their pictures and place them in a card template that will already have elements required by Visa or MasterCard on it, Raymond explained.
Once the member's picture has been uploaded and placed, he or she submits the picture, and the credit union will have to approve the image. In 99% of cases, Raymond said, there will not be any problem, but there will always be a few who might push the envelope and responding to those will remain with the credit union.
"The last thing we want to do is get in between a credit union and its members," Raymond said. "And often the initial time a picture is declined is just a step in a negotiating process for how the picture could be made appropriate."
Anderson chuckled when asked about the possibility of having to turn down some pictures, saying that the credit union had considered the possibility that some of the teens might upload inappropriate pictures but LA DOTD had already decided how it will handle those.
Once the picture is uploaded, personalized cards will take a little bit longer to produce because of additional time in the so-called edge to edge printing process and will be a bit more expensive, but not a lot, Raymond said.
"We still haven't totally figured out our pricing on the product yet, but we're looking at a flat price for access to the platform and then perhaps a per card charge," Raymond said, adding that TNB will leverage participation of many credit unions to bring the price down to where smaller CUs will be able to take part.
Linda Sojat, vice president for card programs for the $202 million Envision Credit Union, said the education-based CU has offered credit card personalization since June of 2006, and its debit cards since May of 2008. Since then, the CU has added 1,500 picture debit cards and 700 picture credit cards.
"Our picture card program has been very popular among parts of our membership, and we have definitely seen a boost in card usage since we put it into place," she said.
Envision, which processes with Fidelity National Information Systems, also linked the personalization program up with instant issuance, Sojat explained, which not only allows members to put their favorite pictures on their cards but also usually pick up their cards in minutes at the CU's headquarters or within a day at one of the other branches. She said Envision charges members $5 to replace their picture cards if they are lost, but does not charge to reissue them when they expire or if they are compromised in a data breach.
She said the CU will also reissue the card, for a fee, if members want to update their cards with newer pictures, which happens particularly when pictures of kids or grandkids are involved.
Sojat said that the link between card personalization and instant issuance is particularly powerful for the credit unions members and has become especially popular.
"Members are really happy to be able to put their own pictures on their cards if they want and really happy to be able to pick those up fast," she said.